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Judge Asked to Uphold Montana’s Ban on TikTok While Legal Challenge is Pending

Montana is requesting a federal judge to allow its law prohibiting new downloads of the video-sharing app TikTok to take effect in January while a lawsuit filed by the company and five content creators is being decided by the courts.

The state responded on Friday to the plaintiffs’ motion in July, which asked U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to temporarily block the law from being implemented until the courts can determine whether it violates free speech rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen drafted the bill over concerns, shared by the FBI and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, that TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, could be used by the Chinese government to access information on U.S. citizens or promote pro-Beijing misinformation. TikTok has denied these allegations.

The federal government and more than half of the U.S. states, including Montana, have already banned TikTok from use on government-owned devices.

The state’s brief argues that “the federal government has already determined that China is a foreign adversary. And the concerns with TikTok are well documented at both the state and federal level.” The Montana law is seen as serving the public interest by protecting people from the potential harms associated with TikTok’s operation.

The state compares the regulation of TikTok to banning cancer-causing radios that transmit protected speech. They suggest that there are other applications available for people to express themselves and communicate with others.

TikTok has claimed to have safeguards in place to moderate content and protect minors, and has stated that it would not share information with China. However, critics point to China’s national intelligence law from 2017, which requires companies to cooperate with the government for intelligence purposes.

Montana’s law would prohibit downloading TikTok in the state and impose a fine of $10,000 per day on any “entity” – such as an app store or TikTok – for each instance in which someone is offered the ability to access the platform or download the app. The penalties would not apply to TikTok users.

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