An attempted ban on TikTok will no longer go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, in Montana. Federal judge Donald Molloy blocked the law on Thursday, ruling that the SB 419 bill “violates the Constitution in more ways than one” and “oversteps state power.”
“Despite the State’s attempt to defend SB 419 as a consumer protection bill, the current record leaves little doubt that Montana’s legislature and Attorney General were more interested in targeting China’s ostensible role in TikTok than with protecting Montana consumers,” the judge wrote in the filing. “This is especially apparent in that the same legislature enacted an entirely separate law that purports to broadly protect consumers’ digital data and privacy.”
Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law in May to help “protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.” ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns the social media platform, sued the state over the allegations.
A spokesperson for TikTok said that the company is pleased with the judge’s decision and that “hundreds of thousands of Montanans can continue to express themselves, earn a living, and find community on TikTok,” according to CNBC.
Thursday’s ruling is only preliminary, the Montana Attorney General noted.
“The judge indicated several times that the analysis could change as the case proceeds and the State has the opportunity to present a full factual record,” the Montana Attorney General office said. “We look forward to presenting the complete legal argument to defend the law that protects Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party obtaining and using their data.”
TikTok previously rebuked the accusations, saying it “has not shared, and would not share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government, and has taken substantial measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok users,” according to Reuters.
Although Montana is the first state to have attempted a ban, questions surrounding users’ data and the involvement of the Chinese government have been brought up in several instances. The U.S. government and several states have barred TikTok from being installed on government-owned devices. In 2020, Donald Trump attempted to ban new downloads but was blocked by court rulings.
In March, U.S. lawmakers conducted a hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and asked questions about potential ties between the company and the Chinese government.
China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law states that organizations must cooperate with intelligence. According to the AP, the 2014 Counter-Espionage Law also notes that organizations cannot refuse to collect evidence for investigations. The news wire adds that there are no legal limits to the party’s powers. They can threaten to cancel licenses, conduct regulatory or tax investigations and use additional penalties to make Chinese and foreign companies operating in China comply with the government.