A federal judge in Montana on Thursday blocked a statewide ban of TikTok from taking effect next year, at least temporarily preventing the nation’s first such prohibition on the popular video app.

The judge, Donald W. Molloy, said Montana could act as a leader in protecting its residents from harm but must “act within the constitutional legal context.” He said a ban of TikTok “limits constitutionally protected First Amendment speech” and granted a preliminary injunction to stop the ban.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has been locked in a legal battle with Montana since state lawmakers passed a bill banning the app in April. (The governor signed it in May.) Lawmakers said the ban would protect residents’ data from the Chinese government, significantly escalating a national push to bar TikTok from government-owned devices.

TikTok, which has long said it does not share U.S. user data with Beijing officials, has called the law overbroad and unconstitutional, and requested the preliminary injunction. The fight has been closely watched by free speech advocates, Big Tech groups and policymakers looking to restrict the app in other states and at the national level. The Biden administration has been weighing a proposal from TikTok that the company says would address national security concerns.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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