Social media company TikTok filed a lawsuit on Monday in an attempt to overrule Montana country’s first ban on the video-sharing app, arguing that the law is an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights and is based on “unfounded speculation” that the Chinese government may be accessing user data.
The lawsuit by TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, follows one filed last week by five content creators. They made similar arguments, including that the state of Montana lacks the authority to take national security action. Both lawsuits were filed in federal court in Missoula.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law on Wednesday, and the content creators’ lawsuit was filed hours later. The law is expected to come into force on January 1, but cybersecurity experts say so could be difficult to apply.
TikTok says so did not share and would not share US user data with the Chinese government and has taken steps to protect the privacy and security of its users, including storing all US user data in the USAaccording to the trial.
Some lawmakers, the FBI and officials from other agencies fear the video-sharing app can be used to allow the Chinese government to access information about US citizens or push pro-Beijing misinformation that could sway the public.
Chinese law requires Chinese companies to share data with the government for any purpose it deems to involve national security. TikTok says this never happened.
“The Chinese Communist Party uses TikTok as a tool to spy on Americans by collecting personal information, keystrokes and even the locations of its users – and by extension, people without TikTok who join users may have information about themselves shared without even knowing it. Montana Department of Justice spokeswoman Emily Flower said in a statement.
“We expected legal challenges and we are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect the privacy and security of Montanans,” she wrote.
The federal government and about half of US states, including Montana, have banned TikTok from government-owned devices.
New Montana law bans TikTok downloads in the state. It would fine any “entity” – an app store or TikTok – $10,000 a day for every time someone “is offered the opportunity” to access the social media platform or download the app. Penalties would not apply to users.
Discussions of a TikTok ban have been around since 2020, when then-President Donald Trump tried to ban the company from operating in the United States through an executive order that was arrested in federal court. Congress also considered banning the application on security issues.