Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill Wednesday banning TikTok in the state.
Tik Tok, banned in one state. How the company is fighting back
Update May 25, now 12:38: TikTok has filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana over a bill that would ban the popular video app in the state starting next year.
TikTok claims the ban violates the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment, as well as other federal laws, according to a complaint filed in the District Court of Montana. The company also claims that concerns that the Chinese government could access the data of TikTok users in the US – which is a key motivation behind the ban – are “unfounded”.
The bill was signed into law last week by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and would fine TikTok or app stores $10,000 a day for making the app available on devices in the state starting on 1 January 2024.
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional ban on TikTok to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement.
“We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an extremely strong set of precedents and facts.”
Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for the Montana attorney general, told CNN: “We expect legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect the privacy and security of Montanans.”
On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the Montana ban as an “abuse of state power.”
“I want to emphasize that the US side has not provided any evidence to prove that TikTok poses a threat to US national security,” ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a regular briefing.
Initial news: Gianforte tweeted that he banned TikTok in Montana “to protect citizens’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party,” officially becoming the first state to ban the social media app.
The controversial law marks the furthest step yet by a state government to restrict TikTok over perceived security concerns, and comes as some federal lawmakers have called for a nationwide ban on TikTok. But the law is expected to be challenged in court.
The bill, which will take effect in January, specifically names TikTok as its target, banning the app from operating within state borders. The law also carries potential fines of $10,000 a day for violators, including app stores found to be hosting the social media app.
Last month, lawmakers in the Montana House of Representatives voted 54-43 to approve the law, known as SB419, sending it to Gianforte’s desk.
In a statement to CNN, TikTok said it will press to defend the rights of users in Montana.
“Governor Gianforte signed a bill that violates the First Amendment rights of Montanans by illegally banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state.
We want to assure Montanans that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, make a living, and find community, while we continue to work to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of the state of Montana. “
The law comes as TikTok faces growing criticism over its ties to China. TikTok is owned by China-based ByteDance.
Numerous US officials have expressed concerns that the Chinese government could gain access to US data through TikTok for espionage purposes, although to date there is no evidence that the Chinese government has ever accessed personal information of US-based TikTok users .
“The government can’t block our ability to access constitutionally protected speech — whether it’s a newspaper, a website, or an app.
By enacting this law, Montana is flouting the United States Constitution, due process, and free speech by denying access to a website and apps that their citizens want to use,” said Carl Szabo, NetChoice General Counsel.
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