A federal judge in Montana blocked the state’s first-in-the-nation ban of TikTok Thursday, dealing a blow to critics’ efforts to outlaw the popular video app for public use.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said the ban, which was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, was clearly an attempt to target “China’s ostensible role in TikTok’ more than an effort to protect Montana consumers. The judge’s preliminary injunction halts that ban, though the state could still appeal.
Montana’s law, signed in May by Gov. Greg Gianforte (R), would have banned all use of the app throughout the state — a leap beyond the more limited rules, passed by more than 30 states and federal agencies, that now prohibit the app from being used on government-owned devices and networks.
The move will extend a losing streak in the courts for a set of Republican-backed efforts designed to outlaw or restrict a social media app with more than 150 million users nationwide.
Representatives from TikTok and Montana did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Montana’s leaders had argued that TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance, could be used to spy on or indoctrinate Montanans and was therefore not constitutionally protected.
TikTok and five Montana-based TikTok creators sued the state in May, in two lawsuits that have since been consolidated, arguing the ban alleged wrongdoing with no evidence and violated users’ First Amendment rights. TikTok has said it does not share data with the Chinese government.
The anti-TikTok push in Montana — one of America’s least-populated states, with just over 1 million people — became widely watched across the country as a signal for how other bans could proceed.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.