A federal district judge expressed skepticism about the nation’s first TikTok ban in Montana during a hearing in Missoula on Thursday.
TikTok and several platform creators sued Montana earlier this year, calling the state’s ban unconstitutional and infringing on the free speech rights of both the company and users. Throughout Thursday’s hearing, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that Montana’s ban was “overly broad,” while the state’s defense argued it was necessary to protect Montana residents’ online privacy.
U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy questioned the state’s evidence supporting its national security concerns and whether it should make the decision on whether users share their data with the app.
Your argument just confuses me.”
“TikTok requests information that users accept and voluntarily provide to TikTok,” Molloy said. “Your argument just confuses me.”
Montana Attorney General Christian Corrigan argued that there was no other way to protect the safety of Montanans than an “outright ban” because of the security risks posed by the app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance.
Finding supporting evidence lacking, Molloy asked Corrigan if the state found any documents provided by TikTok in the discovery to support its national security concerns. After criticizing the discovery process, Corrigan said, “We didn’t do it.”
TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has repeatedly said it has never shared any US data with the Chinese Communist Party. Despite this, the US government and more than half of all US states have taken steps to ban the app on government devices. Some state and federal lawmakers have proposed going further and banning it on citizens’ private phones.
Molloy pointed to Montana as the first and only state in the country to pass such a ban. “Does this seem a little strange to you?” Molloy asked Corrigan.
If not blocked by a court, the ban is expected to go into effect next year, preventing Montana residents from downloading TikTok.
Molloy said he would rule on a preliminary injunction as quickly as possible.