Montana's TikTok Ban Blocked: Constitutional Challenges Ahead -
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Montana’s TikTok Ban Blocked: Constitutional Challenges Ahead

December 1, 2023

The legal landscape in Montana has recently seen an impactful move against TikTok, the widespread social media platform owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. However, this initiative has faced substantial legal hurdles. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy granted a preliminary injunction against a Montana bill designed to ban TikTok starting January 1, 2024.

Judge Molloy criticized the bill for its numerous constitutional issues and for exceeding the scope of state power. The legislation aimed to impose significant fines on any party, including app stores like Apple and Google or TikTok itself, for facilitating access to the TikTok app within Montana.

The Court’s Preliminary Injunction

In his 48-page opinion, Judge Molloy questions the motives behind Senate Bill 419, indicating that it seems more intent on combating the perceived menace of Chinese influence through TikTok than on genuinely ensuring the privacy of Montanans. He also raised concerns about potential violations of First Amendment rights, as the bill would curtail people’s ability to communicate via their platform of choice. Molloy additionally pointed out that Montana’s legislature had already passed other legislation aimed at protecting digital data and privacy, casting further doubt on the need for a TikTok-specific law.

Montana Officials React

Montana officials, undeterred by Judge Molloy’s preliminary injunction, have stated their resolve to pursue the legal fight. They remain hopeful that further developments and evidence in the case may yield a different verdict. The state is committed to presenting a robust legal defense for a law they regard as vital to shielding Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation of their data.

TikTok’s Position

TikTok has welcomed the court’s decision to put a halt to the Montana legislation, a move that enables the state’s residents to keep using the platform for self-expression, income, and community engagement. The company underlines the judge’s ruling as a repudiation of a law that violates constitutional principles.

Background on U.S. Actions Against TikTok

This incident isn’t the first instance of TikTok facing the threat of a ban in the U.S. Former President Donald Trump sought to prohibit the app and mandated a divestiture of its American operations. Though a prospective deal involving Oracle was in discussion in 2020, subsequent legal actions and injunctions put a stop to those attempts.

The Biden administration has shifted away from a direct ban, opting for a national security review, even as concerns regarding data privacy and the influence of China persist as bipartisan matters. This includes recent prominent hearings and legislative actions, such as banning TikTok on federal devices.

Industry Analysis and Implications

The ongoing controversy surrounding TikTok’s status in the U.S. has drawn attention from industry analysts and investors, who are evaluating the potential repercussions on other social media networks. For instance, if TikTok faces restrictions, rival platforms like Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and Snapchat Spotlight might stand to gain. Analysts, including those at Tradevestor, have suggested that a TikTok ban could have significant long-term implications for companies like Meta Platforms.

Market observers such as Bluesea Research and Julian Lin of Best Of Breed Growth Stocks are also examining how either increased competition or an outright ban could impact leading tech firms, including Google and Snap.

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