TikTok Sues Montana, Claiming the App’s Ban is Unconstitutional

TikTok Ban in Montana

Just days after a group of TikTok users filed a lawsuit against Montana seeking to overturn the state’s controversial legislation to ban the popular social media app, TikTok itself has sued Montana over the new law.

As reported by The Verge, TikTok has challenged Montana’s proposed TikTok ban.

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

A Montana’s attorney general spokesperson has not yet responded to The New York Times’ request for comment. New York Times writes, “In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, the company said Montana’s legislation violated the First Amendment and parts of the U.S. Constitution that limit state powers. The ban was ‘unconstitutionally shutting down the forum for speech for all speakers on the app,’ the company said in the lawsuit.”

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 419 on May 17, claiming that the “Chinese Communist Party” is using TikTok to spy on Americans, “violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information.”

“Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” Gianforte continues.

PetaPixel’s coverage of the ban outlines potential penalties for violators, including fines of up to $10,000 per day levied against the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

If the ban remains legally permissible in the face of ongoing legal challenges, it will take effect on January 1, 2024.

Last Thursday. TikTok’s vice president for public policy, Eric Ebenstein, said, “National security concerns are rightly within the purview of the federal government,” but argued that a ban on TikTok is unjustified. Ebenstein believes that Montana breaking new ground with its TikTok ban is evidence of the law’s lack of legal grounding, given that no other state has proceeded with a similar bill.

However, TikTok has come under plenty of scrutiny and has faced bans in more than two dozen states that aim to keep the app off government devices.

Beyond TikTok users and TikTok itself, the ACLU has also chimed in on the controversial TikTok ban, slamming the law as “unconstitutional.”

“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature have trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small business in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment. We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points,” says Keegan Medrano, policy director at the ACLU of Montana.

Gianforte signed the bill, which passed Montana’s legislative process, despite a coalition letter signed and published by organizations, including the ACLU, in early April. In that letter, the signees claimed that TikTok is “home to massive amounts of protected speech and association” and that the newly-signed bill, SB 419, is unjust “censorship.”

Gianforte has taken anti-Chinese sentiment beyond TikTok, also setting his sights on curtailing other Chinese-owned apps, including WeChat, Temu, CapCut, and Lemon8. Gianforte argues that these apps are “tied to foreign adversaries.” Gianforte has also targeted Telegram, a Russian-founded app headquartered in Dubai.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.