China strikes back: TikTok intends to sue the state of Montana
The company is confident that the new law violates the rights of American users to free speech.
Yesterday company TikTok filed a lawsuit challenging a new law in the U.S. state of Montana that bans the use of a Chinese short video sharing app. Montana became the first state in the United States, which introduced a ban on a video service popular among young people and not only.
TikTok claims the Montana law, which is due to go into effect January 1, violates the company’s and users’ rights to free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Montana, also alleges that the law is contrary to federal law because it interferes with the exclusive jurisdiction of federal agencies and violates the US Constitution’s provision on commerce between states and with foreign countries.
TikTok owned by a Chinese company ByteDance and used by more than 150 million Americans, has long been facing growing pressure from US lawmakers and state officials to ban the app across the US due to fears of possible Chinese government influence and cyber espionage.
Montana can impose fines of $10,000 for each violation by TikTok and an additional $10,000 per day for non-compliance with the ban. The law does not penalize individual TikTok users. It’s unclear exactly how Montana will enforce the ban on TikTok.
Mark Warner, chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said the likelihood of Montana’s ban being lifted makes it even more necessary for Congress to pass a bill he introduced to give the president new powers to ban or impose restrictions on TikTok and other foreign-origin apps.
TikTok estimates its active users in the state of Montana alone to be in the hundreds of thousands, when the population of all of Montana is just over a million.
The company states in its lawsuit that it “has not and will never share U.S. user data with the Chinese government, and has taken significant steps to protect the privacy and security of TikTok users.”
Last week, five TikTok users from Montana filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn the state’s ban on the app. Among the defendants in the lawsuit is Austin Knudsen, the Attorney General of Montana, who is responsible for enforcing the law. Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for Knudsen, said the state was ready for litigation.
“We anticipated legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend legislation that helps ensure the privacy and security of Montana residents,” Flower said forcefully.