A Montana federal judge has questioned the state’s TikTok ban, describing it as “paternalistic” and casting doubt on its necessity at a recent hearing.
About the ban: Montana became the first state to ban TikTok back in May following the enactment of Senate Bill 419. The law was intended to shield Montanans from potential data security issues tied to TikTok, particularly its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. It would penalize app stores up to $10,000 per day for offering the app.
TikTok and content creators in Montana filed a lawsuit in response, seeking a preliminary injunction against the ban.
Challenging the ban:
Montana District Judge Donald Molloy, who presided over the hearing on Thursday, expressed skepticism about the intention of the ban, emphasizing that TikTok users voluntarily share their personal data.
“That’s sort of a paternalistic argument,” said Molloy about the lawsuit’s arguments, according to Bloomberg Law. “These people don’t know what they’re doing … so we need to say ‘ban TikTok’ to keep citizens from exercising certain liberties or rights they may have.”
Lack of evidence: When the Montana Attorney General’s office cited the possibility of Chinese government influence over ByteDance, Molloy pressed for concrete evidence, which the state couldn’t provide. TikTok has maintained that it hasn’t shared and does not intend to share US user data with China.
Alternative methods: Molloy suggested that instead of an outright ban, Montana could have explored alternative methods to safeguard data, such as regulating what information TikTok could collect or implementing parental controls.
What’s next: While a decision has yet to be passed, Judge Molloy promised to issue a ruling on a possible temporary injunction promptly. The legal battle carries significant weight for TikTok’s future in the U.S., as it could set a precedent for state-level bans on the app and impact the broader discussion about data privacy, free speech, and regulation in the country.