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

The state of Montana is requesting a federal judge to allow its law banning new downloads of the popular video-sharing app TikTok to be implemented in January while a legal challenge is being considered by the courts. This comes in response to a motion filed by TikTok and five content creators in July, which sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the law from taking effect until its constitutionality is determined.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen introduced the bill due to concerns shared by the FBI and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, could be used by the Chinese government to gather information on U.S. citizens or manipulate public opinion with pro-Beijing propaganda. TikTok has denied these allegations.

The federal government, along with more than half of U.S. states including Montana, has already banned TikTok from being used on government devices. The state argues that the law serves the public interest by protecting users from the potential harm associated with TikTok’s operations.

TikTok has defended itself by pointing out that it has measures in place to moderate content and safeguard minors, and has stated that it does not share user information with the Chinese government. However, critics have pointed to China’s national intelligence law, which requires companies to cooperate with government intelligence work.

Montana’s law would prohibit TikTok downloads in the state and impose a $10,000 daily fine on any entity, such as an app store or TikTok itself, that offers access to the platform or allows the app to be downloaded. The penalties would not apply to individual users.

It remains to be seen whether the judge will uphold Montana’s ban on TikTok or if the law will be deemed an infringement on free speech rights. The outcome of this case could have implications for other states considering similar measures to regulate popular social media platforms.

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