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Montana Ruling Deems Federal TikTok Ban Doomed, Posing Challenges to Proposed Restrictions

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It’s possible that the federal court that stopped Montana’s total ban on TikTok has opened the door for legislators in Washington who want to look beyond a single social media platform.

The decision made by Judge Donald Molloy on Thursday just postpones Montana’s intentions to prohibit its citizens from using the well-known video-sharing app beginning in the new year. However, a number of analysts claimed that the ruling, which declared the measure to be unconstitutional, probably put an end to any hopes of a comprehensive national ban on TikTok or that similar legislation would be introduced in other states.

The app’s ban, which is supported by Beijing-based ByteDance, is a well-known anti-Chinese statement that conservatives highlighted at the previous month’s Republican presidential debate. Additionally, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte stated that the rule was designed to shield locals from Chinese Communist Party influence abroad. If app retailers continued to market the software to users, they would be fined $10,000.

Rather, the decision has given Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill optimism because they believe that a more complex strategy that goes beyond focusing on a single platform has always been necessary.

Ryan Wrasse, a spokesman for Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who is advancing a bipartisan bill to give the administration more authority to block technologies linked to foreign adversaries like China and Russia, said that “the court ruling demonstrates the legal and constitutional difficulties an outright ban faces.” “Technologies owned by foreign adversaries, like TikTok, are here to stay unless Congress takes decisive action to address these threats to national security as soon as possible.”

TikTok is here to stay for the time being since more than 150 million Americans utilize it. The dispute over whether to compel TikTok to sell the platform is preventing the Biden administration from moving forward with its national security assessment of the app.

Legislators’ attempts to completely prohibit TikTok due to national security concerns also failed on Capitol Hill well in advance of the holidays. However, several analysts weren’t shocked by the verdict itself or these challenges.

James Lewis, the head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ strategic technologies program, stated, “Whenever anyone uses the word ban, I know they’re not serious, because you can’t ban TikTok.” He added that doing so would be unlawful and restrict communication.

Requests for comment were not answered by Gianforte’s office or the office of Republican state senator Shelley Vance, the author of the TikTok prohibition legislation.

The Biden administration supports Thune and Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-Va.) RESTRICT Act, which would provide the executive branch with the power it lacked when the Trump administration’s attempt to outlaw TikTok was thwarted in 2020 by two federal courts.

A Warner representative, Rachel Cohen, stated that the RESTRICT Act is “carefully drafted to be constitutional.”

However, Republicans have criticized the RESTRICT Act, arguing that it gives the Biden administration excessive authority. Additionally, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who is drafting her own foreign enemy tech law this Congress, is the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee.

One of Senator Cantwell’s main objectives, according to Cantwell spokesman Tricia Enright, is to draft legislation that can survive legal examination, POLITICO was informed. They have not yet provided an introduction timeframe, but they are still working on the bill wording.

After Molloy’s decision, legislation that outright prohibits TikTok, including those from China hawks like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), is even more dubious.

The Chinese Communist Party “doesn’t have a constitutional right to conduct influence operations in the United States,” Rubio insisted when he presented the anti-social CCP Act in February, but the legislation hasn’t advanced.

States like Montana acted and passed legislation in May prohibiting the app for its 1.1 million citizens since federal efforts to ban TikTok had stagnated. TikTok and its founders sued shortly after this action was taken.

The attorney general’s office in Montana stated that they are now weighing their options, which may include filing an appeal with the 9th U.S. The Circuit Appeals Court “We anticipate providing a comprehensive legal defense to uphold the legislation shielding Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party’s acquisition and utilization of their personal information,” the agency declared.

Montana is now the first state in the union to completely outlaw the TikTok app after Governor Greg Gianforte signed a measure prohibiting the app.

Since TikTok is controlled by Beijing-based ByteDance, the Republican governor signed legislation into law on Wednesday, stating that the restriction is intended to shield residents from foreign interference.

The state’s move comes after initiatives in Congress, such as a bipartisan Senate measure that targets foreign adversaries’ TikTok and other applications. However, when progressive Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and libertarian Republicans like Rand Paul (R-Ky.) came out against a ban, the movement has stagnated in recent weeks.

According to Clay Calvert, a nonresident senior scholar in technology policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Montana’s “likelihood of success is slim to none.” “If the federal government decides to enact an outright ban on TikTok, this will not be good for them.”

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