Judge Rejects TikTok Ban in Montana

(LibertySons.org) – Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) signed SB 419 into law in May, banning TikTok from operating in his state and prohibiting mobile app stores from offering TikTok downloads to residents of the Treasure State under threat of a $10,000 penalty per violation with additional penalties of $10,000 per day per violation for each day the violations continue effective January 1, 2024. Almost immediately after the governor enacted the law, TikTok and several users sued the state. On Nov. 30, US District Judge Donald Molloy issued a preliminary injunction of SB 419 pending the determination of the lawsuit.

Tiltok and others filed suit against Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen on behalf of the state. In his analysis, Judge Molloy wrote that both the plaintiffs and the defendant agreed social media has become the new town square and the medium by which people disseminate and learn about news. Because of that, the judge said the state’s decision to ban one platform, with more than 300,000 users in the state of approximately 1 million, deserved immediate scrutiny.

Molloy found it likely the plaintiffs in TikTok Inc. v. Knudsen would succeed in their arguments that the state had violated First Amendment rights by passing the bill and the law, if enacted, would cause irreparable harm to TikTok and its users. Additionally, the judge found plaintiffs likely would succeed in their argument that the state preempted federal law through the bill.

Arguing the case for Montana, Brent Mead said the bill was primarily aimed at consumer protection and, therefore, didn’t preempt federal law regarding foreign policy. Yet, Molloy pointed out the measure’s language, and the circumstances under which the legislature enacted it contradicted Mead’s assertion. The judge cited passages from the law’s text as examples of foreign policy motivation as opposed to traditional consumer protection.

Knudsen cited the decision as “a preliminary matter” and indicated the state was reviewing its options, including a possible appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, legal experts have suggested Montana’s odds of winning the case are poor, making any potential federal move against TikTok even more problematic.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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