TikTok files lawsuit against Montana over download ban

TikTok filed a lawsuit against Montana on Monday over a new law aimed at stopping people from downloading the app, arguing the ban violates the First Amendment.

"We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana," a spokesperson for the company said after the suit was filed. "We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts."

TikTok is seeking an "order invalidating and preliminarily and permanently enjoining Defendant from enforcing the TikTok Ban," according to the complaint.

Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill last week restricting downloads of the immensely popular social media app into law, making Montana the first state to ban TikTok.

The law makes it illegal for app stores to give users the option to download TikTok and illegal for the company to operate within the state.

In addition to First Amendment concerns, the complaint states that the ban violates a federal preemption, meaning matters of national security and foreign affairs are carried out by the federal government rather than the states.

It also says Montana is in violation of the constitution's Commerce Clause, which limits a state's authority "to enact legislation that unduly burdens interstate and foreign commerce."

Finally, the complaint states that the bill unfairly singles out TikTok "for purely punitive reasons, as evidenced by the State’s decision to single out Plaintiff for harsh penalties based on speculative concerns about TikTok’s data security and content moderation practices" rather than social media companies as a whole.

Montana becomes first state to ban TikTok

May 18, 202301:50

Early this month, Gianforte drafted an amendment to the bill that would have changed its language to target all social media, rather than just TikTok. However, the amendment language did not make it into the final bill because the legislature adjourned before it sent the bill to his desk.

Representatives for Gianforte did not immediately return a request for comment.

Emily Flower, spokeswoman for Attorney General Austin Knudsen said that the office had anticipated legal challenges to the law.

“The Chinese Communist Party is using TikTok as a tool to spy on Americans by collecting personal information, keystrokes, and even the locations of its users — and by extension, people without TikTok who affiliate with users may have information about themselves shared without evening knowing it," Flower said in a statement Monday. "We expected legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect Montanans’ privacy and security.”

Violations of a ban include every time a user is offered the ability to download the app. Each violation could carry a $10,000 penalty. Enforcement would be handled by the Montana Justice Department.

It is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter previously called the bill “unlawful," saying the app is a platform that “empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state.”

“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” Oberwetter said in a statement Wednesday.

The lawsuit is the second filed against the state’s new bill.

This week, five TikTok content creators — Samantha Alario, Heather DiRocco, Carly Ann Goddard, Alice Held and Dale Stout — also sued the state, claiming the ban attempts to suppress speech and “exercises power over national security that Montana does not have.” 

“Montana’s blanket ban prevents our clients, and all Montanans, from engaging in protected speech,” said Ambika Kumar, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Montana suit. “We are determined to see that this misguided and invalid law is permanently enjoined.”


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