A US judge late on Thursday blocked Montana’s first-of-its kind state ban on the use of short-video sharing app TikTok from taking effect on Jan. 1, saying it violated the free speech rights of users.
District Judge Donald Molloy issued a preliminary injunction to block the ban on the Chinese-owned app, saying the state ban “oversteps state power and infringes on the constitutional rights of users.”
TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, did not immediately comment Thursday. The company sued Montana in May, seeking to block the state ban on several grounds, arguing that it violates the First Amendment free speech rights of the company and users. TikTok users in Montana also filed suit to block the ban.
The state attorney general’s office, which defended the ban approved by the legislature citing concerns about the personal data of Montana users and potential Chinese spying, did not immediately comment.
TikTok said in a court filing it “has not shared, and would not share, US user data with the Chinese government, and has taken substantial measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok users.”
Molloy, who was appointed to the bench by Democratic President Bill Clinton, found merit to numerous arguments raised by TikTok in his opinion.
During an October hearing, Molloy questioned why no other state had followed Montana in banning TikTok and asked if the state was being “paternalistic” in arguing the ban was necessary to protect the data of TikTok users.
Montana could have imposed fines of $10,000 for each violation by TikTok in the state but the law did not impose penalties on individual TikTok users.
TikTok has faced efforts by some in Congress to ban the app or give the Biden administration new powers to impose restrictions or bar it, but those efforts have stalled in recent months.
Former President Donald Trump in 2020 sought to bar new downloads of TikTok, but a series of court decisions blocked the effective ban from taking effect.