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TikTok ban in Montana blocked by US judge over free speech rights

This was just one month away from the start date.

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Montana's unprecedented state-wide ban of Chinese short-video app, TikTok, was supposed to take effect on January 1, 2024, but as reported by Reuters, US District Judge Donald Molloy issued a preliminary injunction just one month ahead to block said ban. This means that for now, ByteDance and app stores are allowed to continue serving TikTok to users within the Montana state, without being fined $10,000 daily from the start date of the ban.

The judge was quoted saying the ban "oversteps state power and infringes on the constitutional rights of users" — echoing the legal challenge filed by five TikTok creators on the day after the bill was signed back in May, as well as another lawsuit filed by the platform's owner, ByteDance, later on in the same month. It was also questionable as to whether Google and Apple could have effectively enforced such a state-wide ban on their app stores.

The relevant bill was originally drafted based on claims that this Chinese app would share US users' personal data with the Chinese government, to which ByteDance had long denied since the presidency of Donald Trump. "TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access," the company claimed back in August 2020 — and again via a new "transparency" push earlier this year, with reference to "Project Texas" for safeguarding US user data with help from Oracle.

To date, no other US state had passed a bill to bar TikTok. The outcome of Montana's case may hold the key to this Chinese app's fate across the rest of the country.