TikTok sues Montana over ‘unconstitutional’ statewide ban

TikTok filed lawsuit against Montana on Monday, saying its First Amendment rights to free speech are being violated by a new state law. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

May 22 (UPI) — TikTok on Monday filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana, saying the state’s new law banning the app is a violation of free speech.

TikTok filed a 62-page complaint Monday in Montana’s federal district court over the nation’s first TikTok ban, signed last week by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte. The company called the ban, which goes into effect Jan 1, 2024, a violation of the First Amendment.

“This unprecedented and extreme step of banning a major platform for First Amendment speech, based on unfounded speculation about potential foreign government access to user data and the content of the speech, is flatly inconsistent with the Constitution,” TikTok argued in the complaint.

Citing security concerns with China, Gianforte signed the bill Wednesday banning TikTok, which is owned by Chinese Internet company ByteDance.

“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” the Republican governor said in a statement last week.

TikTok, which is asking the court to invalidate Montana’s ban, called concerns over the Chinese government’s ability to access the data of TikTok users “unfounded.”

Montana’s law, which passed the legislature last month, makes it illegal for app stores to give any of Montana’s 1.1 million residents the option to download the popular app. App stores found violating the ban could be fined $10,000 a day.

Gianforte also sent a directive to ban the app on all government-issued devices or while connected to state Internet networks. U.S. federal agencies were ordered in February to remove TikTok from all government devices after the Biden administration gave them 30 days to purge the app.

“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement Monday. “We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts.”

A group of TikTok users filed a separate suit Wednesday, arguing Montana’s ban violated their free speech and exceeded the state’s legal authority.

“We expected legal challenges,” Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said in a statement, “and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect Montanans’ privacy and security.”


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