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TikTok Creators Sue to Block Montana’s Ban on the Platform

TikTok app on mobile.
A group of TikTok creators have sued to block Montana’s ban of the platform. (Shutterstock)

A group of TikTok creators have sued to block Montana’s ban of the platform, arguing that the new law violates their first amendment rights.

Greg Gianforte, Montana’s governor, on Wednesday, signed into law the first US state-level ban of the increasingly embattled social media app, effective Jan. 1, 2024. The governor argued the move was “to protect Montanans’ personal and private data from being harvested by the Chinese Communist party”.

It comes amid increasing US escalations against TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance. TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny over its ties to China due to concerns that such links could pose a national security threat.

The five users behind the Montana lawsuit seek to block the law, which makes it illegal for the Apple and Google app stores to offer the app in the state. They include a former marine sergeant, an exercise influencer, a rancher and a small swimwear business, with millions of followers combined.

“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.

The lawsuit names Austin Knudsen, Montana’s attorney general. The TikTok users argue the law violates their first amendment rights and that the state seeks to “exercise powers over national security that Montana does not have and to ban speech Montana may not suppress”.

Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Knudsen, said the state was ready for lawsuits. “We expected a legal challenge and are fully prepared to defend the law,” she said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs also did not immediately respond to request for comment.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment, but previously told Reuters Montana’s ban “infringes on the first amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok”.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

The ACLU was also critical of Montana’s ban, which it described as “unconstitutional”.

TikTok has faced growing calls from US lawmakers and state officials to ban the app nationwide over concerns about potential Chinese government influence over the platform. The company has repeatedly denied that it has ever shared data with the Chinese government and has said it would not do so if asked.

Under the new legislation, TikTok and app stores could face fines for violating the ban.

An attempt by Donald Trump to ban new downloads of TikTok and WeChat through a commerce department order in 2020 was blocked by multiple courts and never took effect.

By Dani Anguiano and Kari Paul

Learn more:

Montana’s TikTok Ban: Why Has It Happened and Will It Work

It becomes the first US state to ban the app and follows a move by the country’s federal government blocking employees from using it on their work phones.


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