In a significant legal development, a federal judge in Montana, Donald W. Molloy, has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the statewide ban on TikTok, preventing it from taking effect in the coming year. This decision marks the nation’s first attempt to prohibit the popular video-sharing app.
Judge Molloy emphasized the need for Montana to act within constitutional bounds while acknowledging its role as a protector of residents. He expressed concerns that the ban, aimed at the Chinese-owned app, likely violated the First Amendment and a constitutional clause granting Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.
In his opinion, Judge Molloy criticized Montana’s legislative and attorney general’s motives, suggesting a focus on China’s role in TikTok rather than genuine consumer protection. He noted that the state’s involvement in foreign affairs crossed into and interpreted the United States’ foreign policy interests.
TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek welcomed the judge’s decision, stating that the rejection of the “unconstitutional law” allows hundreds of thousands of Montanans to continue expressing themselves on the platform.
Montana’s Department of Justice, represented by Emilee Cantrell, indicated that the legal analysis might evolve as the case proceeds, expressing anticipation for presenting a complete legal argument to defend the law aimed at safeguarding Montanans’ data from the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok, owned by ByteDance, has been in a legal battle with Montana since lawmakers passed a bill in April to ban the app. The company has consistently argued against sharing U.S. user data with Beijing officials, deeming the law overbroad and unconstitutional. The Biden administration is evaluating TikTok’s proposal addressing national security concerns.
While the ruling is preliminary, legal experts, including Jeff Kosseff, an associate professor of cybersecurity law, doubt the sustainability of Montana’s ban. This decision serves as the latest setback for states attempting to regulate online platforms, raising broader legal questions about the intersection of technology, free speech, and state authority.