The lawsuit argues that the state ban targets the short-form video app and infringes on free speech.
THE TikTok video app launched a lawsuit against the government of Montana in the northwestern United States after the state on Wednesday passed a law effectively banning the app within its borders.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Montana on Monday, TikTok vowed to fight what it said was an unlawful effort to restrict its use.
“We challenge Montana’s unconstitutional ban on TikTok to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” the social media company said in the court filing.
The complaint claims that the ban “restricts free speech in violation of the First Amendment,” as well as other constitutional protections.
While many US states and federal agencies have limited or banned access to TikTok on government devices – based on claims that data from the platform could be used by the Chinese government for surveillance purposes – THE Montana Law goes a step further and bans state enforcement altogether.
Set to take effect Jan. 1, the ban would prevent TikTok from operating in Montana and ban app stores from offering TikTok for download, with violators facing fines.
ICT Tac countered that these privacy concerns are overblown and that they were never asked to hand over user data to the Chinese government. Others pointed out that the United States itself uses world-class technology companies to perform surveillance.
Rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have also questioned the constitutionality of the ban and demanded evidence that the app is a threat to national security.
“With this ban, Governor (Greg) Gianforte and the Montana Legislature have violated the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information and run their small businesses on behalf of the anti-Chinese sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, policy director for the ACLU’s Montana branch, in a statement Wednesday.
BREAKING: Montana’s governor just signed a law that bans TikTok for everyone in the state, violating the free speech rights of hundreds of thousands of people in Montana who use the app.
If the courts do not act, the ban will go into effect on January 1, 2024.
– ACLU (@ACLU) May 17, 2023
Five TikTok users in the state also filed a lawsuit last week in an effort to block the law before it takes effect.
“Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting on TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of its owner or the ideas it posts,” their complaint said.
Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Justice, said the state had expected legal challenges and was “fully prepared to defend the law,” according to The Associated Press.