The implementation of a Montana state law scheduled to ban the TikTok app on January 1 has been temporarily halted by a federal judge pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the law. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen has filed notice of an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, contesting the preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in November.
Judge Donald Molloy,77, was appointed in 1995 by President Bill Clinton. He took senior status in 2011, though he continues to hear some cases.
The contested law, Senate Bill 419, sought to prohibit TikTok from operating in Montana and prevent app stores from offering it for download within the state. Violations would incur penalties of up to $10,000, with an additional $10,000 per day for each ongoing violation. Although individual users were exempt from penalties, concerns were raised by Knudsen and other proponents about potential data exposure to China, as TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. Allegations that the Chinese Communist Party could access information on U.S. users have been investigated by Congress, while TikTok has consistently denied any claims regarding data security risks.
TikTok, along with a group of Montana-based content creators recruited by the company, filed a lawsuit asserting that the ban would infringe upon users’ First Amendment rights. In November, Judge Molloy issued a preliminary injunction, stating that the plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.
This appeal to the 9th Circuit is the second instance where Attorney General Knudsen has contested a lawsuit related to a law from the 2023 legislative session. The court is currently reviewing an appeal concerning a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of House Bill 359, which aims to restrict drag performances in Montana, with the state’s opening brief in that appeal expected next week.