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Montana TikTok Users File Lawsuit to Challenge State's Ban on Chinese-Owned App

Updated: Jan 4

Five Montana TikTok users take legal action against a new state law that prohibits TikTok, alleging violations of free speech rights.

Credit: Reuters

Five TikTok users from Montana have filed a lawsuit in federal court to halt the state's ban on the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform. Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a legislation on Wednesday to prohibit TikTok in the state, effective from January 1. The users aim to block this law, which makes it illegal for Google and Apple app stores to offer TikTok within Montana.

Late on Wednesday, the lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Montana, specifically naming the state's attorney general, Austin Knudsen, who is responsible for enforcing the ban. The TikTok users argue that the state is overstepping its authority regarding national security and attempting to suppress speech, in violation of their First Amendment rights. They compare the ban to prohibiting residents from accessing The Wall Street Journal based on its ownership or published ideas.

Emily Flower, spokesperson for Knudsen, stated that the state anticipated legal challenges and is fully prepared to defend the law. The Chinese-owned TikTok, operated by ByteDance, has been under scrutiny by US lawmakers and officials due to concerns over potential Chinese government influence.

The five plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Montana residents with diverse backgrounds. They include a sustainable swimwear designer utilising TikTok to promote her company and interact with customers, a former US Marine Corps sergeant using the platform to connect with fellow veterans, a rancher sharing outdoor adventure content, a student studying applied human physiology showcasing similar content and a content creator earning revenue from humorous videos.

Credit: Reuters

Knudsen, a Republican like Governor Gianforte, referred to TikTok as a "Chinese Communist Party spying tool" that poses a threat to Montanans. TikTok responded to the ban, stating it infringes on the First Amendment rights of Montanans and vowed to continue defending its users' rights. Gianforte emphasised the law's purpose to safeguard Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.

TikTok has consistently denied sharing user data with the Chinese government and reiterated its commitment not to do so if requested. The case will be presided over by Judge Donald Molloy, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1995.

Montana, with a population of slightly over 1 million, has warned TikTok of potential fines for violations, along with additional daily fines of $10,000 for breaching the ban. Former President Donald Trump's attempt to ban TikTok and WeChat downloads through a Commerce Department order in 2020 was blocked by multiple courts and never enforced.

  • Five Montana TikTok users challenge the state's ban on the Chinese-owned app through a federal lawsuit.

  • Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a law to ban TikTok, effective January 1.

  • TikTok users argue the ban violates their First Amendment rights and exceeds Montana's jurisdiction.

  • The lawsuit targets the state's attorney general, Austin Knudsen, responsible for enforcing the ban.

  • TikTok denies data sharing with the Chinese government and pledges to defend user rights.

  • The case is assigned to Judge Donald Molloy, appointed by President Bill Clinton.

  • Montana warns TikTok of potential fines for violations, including daily penalties of $10,000.

  • Previous attempts by Donald Trump to ban TikTok were blocked by courts.

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