TikTok has been granted a reprieve as a Montana judge has stopped the state’s ban from going into effect.
Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana signed legislation prohibiting TikTok from operating in the state a few months ago. The legislation was signed in an effort to shield Montanans from suspected Chinese intelligence gatherings. The law was signed even though there is not any solid proof that TikTok was involved in any such activity.
A group of TikTok users objected to the legislation, claiming that it violated their First Amendment rights. This led to a court challenge and, ultimately, District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s ruling to halt Montana’s attempt to enact a ban.
While delivering the judgment, the judge said the Montana legislation violates the constitution and “oversteps state power.”
Reacting to the judgment, TikTok said:
“We are pleased the judge rejected this unconstitutional law, and hundreds of thousands of Montanans can continue to express themselves, earn a living, and find community on TikTok.”
Reacting, the Montana attorney general said that the state is considering the next steps to actualize its proposed ban, which should have come into effect next January.
Brian Meert, founder of AdvertiseMint, a TikTok ads agency stated “Many of these government proposed bans of TikTok are a direct response to China’s original ban of United States based social media apps like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to promote the Chinese built WeChat social app. It also comes from a politically charged situation regarding social media platforms after the Cambridge Analytica situation in 2018, and since then, politicians have been wary of the collection of data by social networks and how it can be used to influence elections.”
Things did not look good for TikTok in 2022, as several states took drastic steps to limit the use of the app over security reasons.
As of December 2022, close to 19 US states had either partially blocked access to TikTok or permanently done so. Some members of Congress proposed a nationwide ban, joining India, a country that announced a ban on TikTok and tons of other Chinese apps.
Responding to the ban, TikTok reiterated in a statement that the company was “disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.”
On several occasions, TikTok has had to defend itself against allegations of gaining access to classified information, a situation the US government finds worrying. The fact that TikTok is a Chinese-owned company does not sit comfortably with the US government, and the South Dakota ban has not come as a surprise to many.
In July 2022, Buzzfeed reported that ByteDance engineers in China had access to US data as late as January 2022, which raised a lot of concerns, especially among some Republican lawmakers.