TikTok sues Montana to block state-wide ban

23 May 2023

TikTok logo statue at VidCon 2022. Image: Anthony Quintano (CC by 2.0)

TikTok claims the Montana ban goes against the US first amendment and that the state’s surveillance allegations are ‘unfounded speculation’.

TikTok is taking the US state of Montana to court, in a bid to prevent the recently approved ban from coming into effect next year.

The bill was signed by the state’s governor last week, who claimed China’s government uses the app to spy on US citizens. The ban will give significant daily fines for “entities” that allow users to download and use the platform. Entities refer to mobile app stores and TikTok.

TikTok previously hinted that it would oppose the bill if it was approved. On Twitter yesterday (22 May), the company’s communications account said it is challenging the “unconstitutional TikTok ban” to protect its business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in the state.

“We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts,” TikTok said.

In the company’s legal order to a district court, TikTok claimed the Montana ban goes against the US first amendment by curtailing freedom of speech. The platform also claims the ban “violates the US constitution in multiple other respects and is preempted by federal law”.

TikTok said the Montana government has enacted these measures on “nothing more than unfounded speculation”. This is in regards to claims that the Chinese government could access data on TikTok users and that TikTok “exposes minors to harmful online content”.

“Yet the State cites nothing to support these allegations, and the State’s bare speculation ignores the reality that [TikTok] has not shared, and would not share, US user data with the Chinese government,” TikTok said in the document.

Governor Greg Gianforte’s issues with social media surveillance extend beyond TikTok, as the governor also plans to ban other social media platforms that are tied to “foreign adversaries”. Some of the other apps targeted by the governor include Telegram, WeChat and Temu.

Montana is the first US state to attempt a full ban on TikTok, but the platform has been facing scrutiny by governments worldwide due to security and privacy concerns.

All members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, have banned the popular social media app on government devices.

Similar moves have been taken by the European Commission and France, while the Irish Government was advised to not have the app on work devices last month.

US lawmakers have also threatened to issue a full ban on the platform unless ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) sells its shares in the US version of the app.

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TikTok logo statue at VidCon 2022. Image: Anthony Quintano via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic