US Judge Blocks Montana’s ‘Anti-Chinese’ TikTok Ban

US Judge Blocks Montana’s ‘Anti-Chinese’ TikTok Ban

A US Federal Judge blocked a Montana law Thursday that would have banned TikTok in the state starting on January 1st, arguing the bill is unconstitutional on the basis that it violates users’ right to free speech.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy issued a temporary injunction to halt the law, saying it “violates the Constitution in more ways than one.” Molloy said the ban on the Chinese-owned app is permeated with a “pervasive undertone of anti-Chinese sentiment.” TikTok is suing Montana to have the law struck down entirely.

Hysteria over TikTok reached a fever pitch in 2022, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voiced concerns that the app might be siphoning user data to the Chinese government. Many politicians including US congress members and former President Trump argued TikTok should be banished from the United States altogether.

But this paranoia ignores the reality of data collection online. The internet is built by design to harvest data and share it with anyone who wants a peak. That continues thanks to the federal government’s decades-long failure to pass any meaningful laws that regulate digital privacy, despite the fact that the majority of Americans support such legislation.

Many of the same politicians who made the loudest arguments against TikTok are personally responsible for blocking federal privacy bills that would address these problems, including Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. In March, congress hauled TikTok CEO Shou Chew in for a brutal five-hour hearing. In the months since elected officials got their moment to yell at Shou, the TikTok issue has largely fallen off the radar.

TikTok is banned on devices belonging to the federal government, and many states passed similar rules. Montana, however, broke new ground with a full-on ban in 2023. Montana State Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who has defended the ban, compared TikTok to “a cancer causing radio.”

“This is a preliminary matter at this point. The judge indicated several times that the analysis could change as the case proceeds and the State has the opportunity to present a full factual record,” said Emilee Cantrell, a spokesperson for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen. “We look forward to presenting the complete legal argument to defend the law that protects Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party obtaining and using their data.”

If you’re worried that an app might leak American data to China, you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about who owns TikTok. A 2020 Gizmodo investigation found that every major social media platform partners with Chinese ad-tech companies. That includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, and other consumer apps including Gmail and platforms like Yahoo. That means these apps share the exact same kind of user data with companies that are equally likely to pass that data onto the Chinese government as TikTok.

Beyond that, there are hundreds if not thousands of companies called data brokers whose entire business model is collecting data about Americans and selling it to anyone who wants it. For example, a study in November found that data brokers were happy to sell information about US military personnel for pennies, even when researchers pretended to be from Singapore, where TikTok has its headquarters.

The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t have to go through TikTok to get its hands on sensitive American data. China can just buy that data from American companies, and it’s dirt cheap.

That’s because there are zero comprehensive privacy rules at the federal level, despite widespread misconceptions. Many of the same politicians who made the loudest arguments against TikTok are personally responsible for blocking federal privacy bills, including Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Make no mistake, TikTok’s privacy practices are just as bad as any other tech company, but they aren’t unique or unusual by any measure. The company maintains that it has not and will never share data with the Chinese government.

TikTok celebrated the legal victory on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. “We are pleased the judge rejected this unconstitutional law and hundreds of thousands of Montanans can continue to express themselves, earn a living, and find community on TikTok,” the company tweeted.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.