Legal action comes after some of the platform’s users sued the state’s attorney general
TikTok is suing Montana over the state’s new ban of the social-media platform, challenging the law’s constitutionality.
The suit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Montana, alleges the ban violates the First Amendment and several other laws. The case was brought against the state’s attorney general, who is tasked with enforcing the ban.
The ban is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. It is unclear how it will be enforced.
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” TikTok said in a statement Monday.
A spokeswoman for the Montana governor’s office said that the governor has been clear about his intentions to protect Montanans’ privacy rights.
A spokeswoman for Montana’s attorney general Austin Knudsen said “We expected legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect Montanans’ privacy and security.”
The law, which was signed by the governor of Montana last week, prohibits TikTok, which is owned by Chinese parent ByteDance, from operating in the state and app stores such as Google’s and Apple’s from offering the app. Any entity violating the law will be fined $10,000 a day. Individual TikTok users won’t be punished.
A group of TikTok creators last week sued Montana’s state attorney general over the state’s new ban. The creators, who collectively have more than 500,000 followers, also alleged it was unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment and other laws.
In addition to first amendment concerns, TikTok also alleges that it isn’t within Montana’s state rights to enact such a ban. The company argues that it is exclusively the federal government’s right to deal with foreign entities.
TikTok also says the ban violates a law that bars governments from declaring a person or entity guilty of a crime and punishing them without a trial, and rules governing interstate commerce.
“The first amendment argument is a very strong one,” says Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who is not affiliated with the case. So is federal pre-emption, the claim that the ban isn’t within the state’s scope to make.
“The claim from Montana is that they’re protecting national security and that is something squarely within the domain of the federal government, not left to the state,” he said.
TikTok has repeatedly come under fire over its Chinese ties. Lawmakers, both at the state and federal levels, have voiced concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s access to data that TikTok collects.
TikTok says it has never been directed by the Chinese government to share data and that it would refuse to do so if asked. China said it would not ask the company for that data.
Then-president Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok in 2020 unless the American operations were put under U.S. ownership. President Biden rescinded those orders after he was elected, in the wake of successful legal challenges, but the administration has since raised its own concerns about the platform’s ownership.
TikTok has tried to allay those concerns, including a plan to route U.S. user data through third-party cloud providers such as Oracle. The plan would involve setting up a new wholly owned subsidiary called U.S. TikTok Data Security. The company’s Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew appeared before Congress in March and faced five hours of sometimes sharp questioning from both Democrats and Republicans.
Write to Meghan Bobrowsky at firstname.lastname@example.org
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