An American judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the TikTok ban that was due to go into effect in the US state of Montana at the start of next year.
Both TikTok itself, and a group of TikTok creators, filed legal proceedings against the ban after it was passed by lawmakers in Montana earlier this year. Among other things they claimed that the ban violates free speech rights in the US constitution, an argument accepted by judge Donald W Molloy this week.
In his ruling, he writes that SB419 - the statute that prohibits use of the social media app in Montana - "bans TikTok outright and, in doing so, it limits constitutionally protected First Amendment speech. Accordingly, SB419 must pass at least intermediate scrutiny review. Plaintiffs have demonstrated that it is unlikely the law will be able to do so".
It's not only politicians in Montana that have issues with TikTok, of course. Politicians in multiple countries have expressed concern that the Chinese government has access to TikTok user data via its China-based owner Bytedance.
Lawmakers in Montana raised other issues too, though the China data thing was the big one. Which Molloy also noted in his ruling. Because, he said - while SB419 is presented as consumer protection law - it’s really related to the foreign policy of the US at large, which is a federal rather than state matter.
TikTok said it was "pleased the judge rejected this unconstitutional law". Meanwhile, the office of the Montana Attorney General stressed that the ruling is preliminary and "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 Attorney General’s spokesperson then added: "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".