Montana Wants Appeals Court To Reinstate TikTok Ban

Montana officials on Tuesday appealed an order blocking enforcement of a law banning the app TikTok.

The law, which was passed last year, would have prohibited app stores from offering TikTok to users in Montana, and largely prohibited people from accessing the app in the state (with some exceptions, including for law enforcement).

The law was slated to take effect January 1, but was blocked last year by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula on the grounds that it likely violates the First Amendment and represents an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen on Tuesday initiated an appeal of that ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. His office hasn't yet made substantive arguments to that court.

Montana lawmakers who passed the bill expressed concerns that ByteDance shares data about U.S. users with the Chinese government. State lawmakers also accused TikTok of failing to remove “dangerous content” that allegedly encourages young users to engage in risky activity, such as “throwing objects at moving automobiles,” “inducing unconsciousness through oxygen deprivation,” and “cooking chicken in NyQuil.”



While the law wouldn't have penalized users, it called for for sanctions starting at $10,000 per violation against TikTok and mobile app marketplaces.

Molly's injunction came in response to two lawsuits challenging the ban -- one by a coalition of TikTok users, and a second by TikTok, owned by the Chinese-company ByteDance.

TikTok had argued that the law, if allowed to take effect, would shut down a platform that “hundreds of thousands of individuals in Montana use to engage in constitutionally protected speech.”

The company also said there was no evidence the app had been used for espionage on behalf of a foreign government.

Molloy said in a written ruling that the law wasn't “narrowly tailored” to either preventing China from accessing data about U.S. residents, or protecting minors from accessing dangerous material.

“It is well-established that other social media companies, such as Meta, collect similar data as TikTok, and sell that data to undisclosed third parties, which harms consumers,” he wrote.

He also said the bill wouldn't “reasonably prevent” minors from accessing dangerous content.

Other states have banned the app from government-owned devices or networks, but Montana alone attempted to prohibit use of the app on personal smartphones.

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