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Montana AG appeals injunction against state's TikTok ban

TikTok Montana
Posted at 5:32 PM, Jan 03, 2024

HELENA — A state law that would have banned the app TikTok in Montana didn’t take effect as scheduled on Jan. 1, because a federal judge put it on hold while a lawsuit challenging it goes forward. Now, the state has appealed that decision.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen filed notice Tuesday that he was taking the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In November, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy issued a preliminary injunction, preventing the state from implementing Senate Bill 419. The bill said TikTok couldn’t operate in Montana, and that app stores couldn’t offer it for download within the state’s borders. It instituted penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation, with another $10,000 each day a violation continues. Individual users would not face penalties.

Knudsen and other supporters of the law said they were concerned the app might expose Montanans’ data to China. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company headquartered in China. Congress has probed claims that officials from the Chinese Communist Party might be able to access information on U.S. users. TikTok has denied any claims that its app puts data at risk.

TikTok and a group of Montana-based content creators who use the app sued over the ban, saying it would violate users’ First Amendment rights. In his November order, Molloy said the plaintiffs had shown had shown a likelihood of success on the merits.

This is the second time Knudsen has appealed a lawsuit over a law from the 2023 legislative session to the 9th Circuit. The court is currently considering an appeal of a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of House Bill 359, which would restrict drag performances in Montana. The state’s opening brief in that appeal is due next week.