TikTok users in the United States have filed a lawsuit to lift Montana’s ban on the China-owned short video sharing platform.
Montana became the first state last week to impose a complete ban on China-based Bytedanece’s viral app, citing China’s government’s access to users of the widely popular app.
Greg Gianforte, governor of Montana had signed into law a measure on Wednesday that banned TikTok from operating in the state completely. This ban, which took effect on January 1, 2024, marked the first of its kind in the United States.
As a Republican, Gianforte stated that he signed the law to safeguard the privacy and security of Montanans. He consistently leveled allegations against the popular video-sharing app, claiming that it posed a security risk. The Chinese government could potentially exploit TikTok to collect data on American users, according to Gianforte.
“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 [CCP],” Gianforte said in a statement.
However, five TikTokers have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the recently approved ban. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Montana on Wednesday and names the state’s attorney general, Austin Knudsen, who is responsible for enforcing the law.
State was ready for lawsuit
In their lawsuit, the TikTok users contend that the state is attempting to exert authority over national security matters that it does not possess, as well as suppressing speech that Montana is not authorized to stifle.
The law infringes upon their First Amendment rights, protecting freedom of speech, they argued.
An important thing to recognize about the Montana TikTok ban is that, the more attention it delivers for the lawmakers, the more states will do it, even if the only thing it gets them is legal bills.
This is most of why I’m choosing to mostly ignore it.
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) May 20, 2023
“Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting to TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes,” the lawsuit said.
Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for Knudsen, insisted that the state was ready for such lawsuits. “We expected a legal challenge and are fully prepared to defend the law,” she said.
The growing concerns about potential Chinese government influence over the platform have led to increased demands from U.S. lawmakers and state officials for a nationwide ban on the app, prompting scrutiny of TikTok’s parent company.
Who are the plaintiffs?
The lawsuit reveals that the five plaintiffs, who are all Montana residents, encompass a diverse group of individuals. Among them is a sustainable swimwear designer who relies on TikTok as a platform to promote her company and engage with customers.
Another plaintiff is a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who utilizes TikTok to establish connections with fellow veterans. Additionally, the group includes a rancher who shares content about her outdoor escapades on TikTok, a student studying applied human physiology who shares content about outdoor adventures, and an individual who earns revenue by sharing comedic videos on TikTok.
This is why Gianforte banned TikTok in Montana https://t.co/9ApiHEvPQu
— Melissa Luck ☘ (@MelissaKXLY4) May 20, 2023
With a population of slightly over 1 million people, Montana has restricted that TikTok may be subject to fines for each violation and could face additional daily fines of $10,000 if it fails to comply with the ban.
It is worth noting that former President Donald Trump’s endeavor to prohibit new downloads of TikTok and WeChat through a Commerce Department order in 2020 was disenchanted by multiple courts and ultimately did not come into effect.