This week, TikTok won two straight court cases that threatened to make it more difficult for the company’s detractors to crack down on it. First, an Indiana state judge dismissed one lawsuit against the well-known short-form video app, and then a federal judge overturned a historic Montana law that would have outlawed the app statewide.
No decision has been made in either case. However, the preliminary findings in both states demonstrate that the politics lost when the contentious politics of TikTok clashed with the most fundamental elements of American law.
According to Thursday’s rulings, efforts to clamp down on TikTok in both cases failed to pass basic muster, including whether they complied with the First Amendment or whether the court even had jurisdiction over the matter.
These findings demonstrate how the government’s attempts to control TikTok are blatantly fabricated and intended only as political theatre.CNN was informed by Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman. They therefore appear absurd when presented to a non-political decision-maker.
The states’ inability to overcome even the most basic legal obstacles serves as a reminder of the difficulty facing legislators, who are finding it difficult to define a specific issue that their legal resources can address.
How did we arrive here?
The genesis of the two cases differs. TikTok was sued in Indiana for allegedly breaking state consumer protection laws, and the court there sought penalties and restrictions on the platform. TikTok and a group of content creators filed the lawsuit in Montana after the state passed SB419, a law that would have made it illegal for the app to be used on personal electronic devices inside state borders.
Government representatives from all levels of the US government voiced concerns in both cases regarding TikTok’s connections to China through its parent company, ByteDance. Legislators have claimed that Chinese intelligence regulations may compel ByteDance to give the Chinese government access to US user data from TikTok; however, US officials have not yet made any proof of illegal government data access available to the public.
Proposals to outlaw TikTok in the US have been around for a while, dating back to the Trump administration. However, the majority of these efforts have been contested in court.
Federal and state laws that prohibit TikTok from being used on official government devices are the only ones that have been successful in limiting the app. However, millions of US personal devices can still access TikTok without restriction.
TikTok has continued to expand its influence throughout the nation. Earlier this year, TikTok declared that it had achieved the milestone of 150 million active monthly users in the US. Additionally, a growing number of TikTok users—including creators and small business owners—now depend on the platform for their livelihoods.
District Judge Donald Molloy wrote in his opinion on Thursday that Montana’s decision to outlaw the TikTok app would be a clear violation of the First Amendment rights of certain creators, given their reliance on the platform.