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Federal Court Reviews Montana TikTok Ban

Federal Court Reviews Montana TikTok Ban

Sarah Hardacre
Following Montana’s statewide ban of TikTok in April, TikTok and five content creators have filed a temporary injunction to block Montana’s TikTok ban, which will come into effect January 1, 2024. A federal judge heard arguments from the state of Montana and TikTok.

The state of Montana, represented by Solicitor General Christian Corrigan, argued that the ban protects the residents from data security abuses, citing public reports of TikTok parent company Bytedance’s connection to China. Montana claims that the ban was in response to concerns over Chinese surveillance of US users, but provided no evidence of any harm done to Montana residents.

TikTok attorney Alexander Berengaut stated that “the real purpose of the statute is to declare a foreign policy for the state of Montana,” and asserted that foreign policy is within the purview of the federal government.

Ambika Kumar, an attorney for the TikTok creators, claimed the ban goes against the First Amendment rights of TikTok users and TikTok itself. Kumar also argued that the ban goes too far and that other alternatives could protect users, such as limiting the amount of data that TikTok can acquire and store.

The judge overseeing the case, District Judge Donald Molloy, has called the law “paternalistic” and challenged both sides over the standard of evidence needed to pass legislation. Molloy has not yet ruled on the injunction, but said he would do so quickly after evaluating the arguments from both sides.

Montana is the first state to impose a ban on TikTok, and the outcome of the upcoming trial will be an indicator for TikTok’s future in the US, one of its largest markets. The federal government and several states have already banned TikTok from government issued devices.

The ban prohibits TikTok from being distributed to Montana residents, with a penalty of up to $10,000 per violation, per day for any entity that makes TikTok available for download, putting the onus to uphold the ban on app stores and TikTok. There will be no penalties for users.

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