Last Thursday, November 30, in the United States, a federal judge’s decision temporarily halted a ban on a virtual platform for creating and watching short videos and online broadcasts of TikTok in Montana, which was supposed to take effect in early 2024.
The ruling by District Judge Donald Molloy indicates that, despite the efforts of the management of the mentioned region to defend the decision to restrict the use of the specified app, the current state of affairs does not give reason to doubt that, as part of taking measure regarding the social interaction platform, the state legislature and the attorney general were focused on issues of mutual relations between the Chinese authorities and TikTok. It is separately noted that in this case, consumer protection was not a primary interest. The ruling also points out that Montana’s law banning the virtual platform probably contradicts the First Amendment.
Donald Molloy argues that restricting the operation of the app in the said state has harmed the rights of plaintiff users under the First Amendment and stopped the revenue stream that many rely on.
This decision of the judge is in a certain sense a landmark event since it is an act of active legal opposition to TikTok critics. Currently, 150 million users from the United States are registered on this virtual platform.
The judge’s ruling is not only a setback for Montana politicians who decided to ban the use of the popular app on all personal devices in the region but also sends a signal to all those who intend to make similar attempts to implement restrictions on TikTok.
Emilee Cantrell, Deputy Director of Communications for the Montana Attorney General’s Office, said the temporary halt of the virtual platform ban is just a preliminary decision. As part of this statement, it was noted that the judge indicated several times that the analysis may change as the case progresses, and the state has the opportunity to submit a full factual report.
The Deputy Director of Communications for the Montana Attorney General’s Office also said that local authorities are looking forward to full legal arguments in defense of the law, ensuring the safety of personal data of residents of the state against the threat of obtaining this information and its subsequent use by the Chinese Communist Party.
The decision of the management of the mentioned region to ban the operation of TikTok within Montana was an innovative legal measure. In this case, significant fines of $10,000 per day were provided for violators. The law was signed by the governor of the state, Greg Gianforte, in May this year. The head of the region said that this decision is necessary to protect the personal information of residents from the Chinese Communist Party.
The law was challenged by TikTok and a group of content creators on that company’s virtual platform. They claimed that the decision taken by the Montana authorities violated their First Amendment rights.
Currently, in the United States, lawmakers are actively clarifying the relationship between TikTok and Beijing as the political center of China. This app is part of the ownership structure of the ByteDance company from the mentioned Asian country. In the United States, some officials fear that Beijing may use TikTok as a kind of database for espionage purposes. At the same time, so far there is no officially confirmed evidence that the virtual platform is involved in such practices. There are also no examples of Beijing’s access to the personal information of American TikTok users.
It should be noted that the United States government has banned the use of the app, which has become the cause of controversy and the object of criticism, on official devices. A similar ban was imposed by local government structures in dozens of regions of the country. For example, this measure was supported by New York City in August. At that time, Jonah Allon, a spokesman for NY Mayor Eric Adams, said that the local cyber command had reported that the app was a threat to the security of technical networks.
At the same time, in the United States, the ban on the use of TikTok on personal devices is not yet a restriction measure implemented in practice.
In some states, local governments have tried to act on the virtual platform using their methods to limit the extent of its distribution. On Thursday, another lawsuit against TikTok in Indiana was dismissed. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that the app provides false information about user data protection and does not have effective content moderation mechanisms following the age of the consumer. Judge Jennifer DeGroote stated that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over TikTok.
In October, a lawsuit against the app was filed in Utah. Local authorities accused TikTok of misrepresenting the extent of interaction with Bytedance. According to the plaintiffs, the statements about the absolute security of the app are a deliberate lie. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes says that TikTok is involved in marketing practices aimed at forming users’ addiction to the product and manipulating children.
Montana, as part of a large-scale counteraction to the virtual platform in the United States, has made the most radical decision, but so far has not been able to implement it. At the October hearings, Donald Molloy criticized this initiative, accusing its authors of actions dictated by paternalistic views, noting. that legislators could achieve their goals regarding the security of user data by other methods.