Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok sues US state of Montana over law that would ban distribution of app in state on security grounds
Social media platform TikTok has sued the US state of Montana over a ban that aims to stop residents of the state from accessing the Chinese-owned app.
The subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Montana late on Monday.
Montana last week became the first US state to pass a ban that prevents app stores from distributing the app in the state, starting on 1 January, 2024.
The company said the ban violates US free speech rights.
A number of states, along with the US federal government, have already banned TikTok from government devices over concerns data collected by the app could be accessed by Chinese authorities. Some lawmakers are seeking a nationwide ban.
But the company said Montana’s action was “unlawful” on Constitutional grounds.
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” TikTok said.
“We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts.”
In addition to free speech rights, TikTok cited the Commercial Clause of the US Constitution, which limits the authority of states to enact legislation that places undue burdens on interstate and foreign commerce.
TikTok says it has more than 150 million users in the US and estimates it has hundreds of thousands in Montana, which has a population of about 1.1 million.
The company said in its lawsuit that it “has not shared, and would not share, US user data with the Chinese government, and has taken substantial measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok users”.
Its action follows a lawsuit last week in federal court by five Montana TikTok users seeking to block the ban.
The office of Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said the state was prepared for lawsuits.
“We expected legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect Montanans’ privacy and security,” a representative of Knudsen said in a statement.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner said the probability that federal courts would overturn Montana’s ban made it more essential for Congress to pass legislation he introduced that would give the president new powers to ban or restrict foreign-owned apps such as TikTok.