A US District Judge, Donald Molloy, has blocked Montana’s ban on TikTok, asserting that it violates users’ free speech rights.

Montana had become the first US state to pass the ban in May, scheduled to take effect on 1 January. TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, promptly filed a lawsuit against Montana, leading to the recent court decision.

The law aimed to make TikTok unavailable on app stores, with potential penalties of up to US$10,000 for violators.

Judge Molloy sided with TikTok, stating that the ban “violates the Constitution in more ways than one” and goes beyond the state’s authority.

Montana is now considering its options to defend the law, emphasising the need to protect residents’ data from the Chinese Communist Party.

TikTok expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, describing the law as unconstitutional.

The app highlighted that hundreds of thousands of Montanans could continue expressing themselves, earning a living, and finding community on TikTok.

Montana had previously banned TikTok from government devices in December, and the recent law sought a broader prohibition.

TikTok, popular among teenagers and young adults, has faced global scrutiny over data privacy concerns, with authorities questioning its potential ties to the Chinese government.

The app, with 150 million American users, maintains its commitment to user privacy, while parent company ByteDance has consistently denied Chinese government control.

In March, a US congressional committee explored potential data risks associated with TikTok, and last month, Nepal joined other countries in banning the app due to concerns about its impact on social harmony.