TikTok has filed a federal lawsuit against Montana over the state’s new law banning the short-video app.
In the suit filed on Monday, the company argues the ban violates first amendment rights of both the company and its users.
The suit also argues the ban is pre-empted by federal law because it intrudes upon matters of exclusive federal concern and violates the commerce clause of the US constitution, which limits the authority of states to enact legislation that unduly burdens interstate and foreign commerce.
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” the company said in the court filing.
On Wednesday, Montana’s governor, Greg Gianforte, signed legislation that bans the app and prohibits the Google and Apple app stores from offering it within the state starting next year.
The law would fine any “entity” – whether an app store or the social media company itself – for each time someone “is offered the ability” to access the platform or download the app.
A group of TikTok creators had already sued to block the law, arguing it violates their first amendment rights. The state, the plaintiffs argued, seeks to “exercise powers over national security that Montana does not have and to ban speech Montana may not suppress”. The group included a former marine sergeant, an exercise influencer, a rancher and a small swimwear business.
Gianforte has argued the law will “protect Montanans’ personal and private data from being harvested by the Chinese Communist party”.
Montana’s ban comes amid increasing scrutiny of the Chinese-owned app over its ties to China. The company has denied that it has ever shared data with the Chinese government and has said the company would not do so if asked.
Still, Donald Trump in 2020 sought to bar new downloads of TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, but a series of court decisions blocked the bans from taking effect. The federal government, and more than half of US states, have prohibited the app on government devices and the Biden administration has threatened a national ban unless its parent company sells its shares.
TikTok is arguing Montana “banishes TikTok, and just TikTok, from the state for purely punitive reasons, as evidenced by the state’s decision to single out plaintiff for harsh penalties based on speculative concerns about TikTok’s data security and content moderation practices”.
The suit names Montana’s attorney general, Austin Knudsen, who is charged with enforcing the law.
Knudsen’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. TikTok has more than 100 million users in the US. It’s unclear how the ban would be enforced, with many ways for users to evade geographic bans.
Reuters contributed to this report
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