TikTok Ban Blocked By Judge

John Lister's picture

A federal judge has blocked a Montana state ban of the video sharing app TikTok. The case centers on a clash between security concerns and free speech.

The app, which largely features short videos produced by users, is particularly popular with younger people. Compared with other video sharing sites, it strongly emphasizes an algorithm showing videos likely to appeal to a specific user, rather than the user actively searching for a particular video or creator.

TikTok has come under strong criticism in the US because of its Chinese ownership and questions about how much data it collects about users and what happens to it. Some critics also say there's a danger of Chinese influence on the content of the app, against US political interests.

Montana's state legislature passed a ban earlier this year. Rather than making it illegal to use, it would have stopped app stores from distributing the app to users in the state. Doing so could lead to a fine of $10,000 a day.

First Amendment Fears

The ban, which was due to take effect from January 1, 2024 has now been put on hold by an injunction from the US district court. The judge said the ban would violate the First Amendment, both by specifically restricting one organization's ability to communicate, and by restricting users' ability to communicate "by their preferred means of speech." (Source: courtlistener.com)

The judge also held that the ban would violate the constitution's "Commerce Clause", which says Congress has the right to regulate commerce between the US and foreign nations.

The ruling also rejected Montana's argument that it had the right to make such a law on security grounds, instead saying this was a national security matter and thus came under the remit of federal government.

Appeal May Follow

In theory the injunction is simply a temporary block until the dispute goes to a full hearing. However, while Montana officials say they are considering their options, there's some speculation that they won't push the case further.

The state hasn't given up on the wider principle, however. Governor Greg Gianforte has banned the use of social media apps on state equipment if the apps linked to adversarial nations such as China and Russia. (Source: deadline.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you agree with the ban or was the judge right to block it? Should security concerns outweigh people's choice of what apps to use? Should officials put more emphasis on persuasion and publicizing what they see as a security threat?

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