China-owned TikTok filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging the state of Montana over its new ban on use of the short video app.
TikTok says the ban violates First Amendment rights of the company and the app’s users. The social media platform estimates it has hundreds of thousands of active users in the state.
Montana, which has a total of about 1.1 million residents, is the first US state to impose such a ban on the app. The state’s TikTok ban will take effect on January 1, 2024.
While it is not clear how it would enforce the ban, the state could impose fines of $10,000 for each violation by TikTok and additional fines of $10,000 per day if it violates the ban. The law does not impose penalties on individual TikTok users.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Montana, 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. The clause limits the authority of States to enact legislation that unduly burdens interstate and foreign commerce.
TikTok’s lawsuit names Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who is charged with enforcing the law.
Montana ‘prepared to defend’
Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Knudsen, said the state was ready for lawsuits.
“We expected legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect Montanans’ privacy and security,” she said on Monday.
Last week, five TikTok users in Montana also filed a lawsuit in a federal court seeking to block the state’s ban.
The popular app, which is owned by China’s ByteDance and used by more than 150 million Americans, has faced growing calls from US lawmakers and state officials for a nationwide ban over concerns about potential Chinese government influence over the platform.
Former US President Donald Trump sought to bar new downloads of TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, a unit of Tencent, and related transactions in 2020. However, a series of court decisions blocked the bans from taking effect.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Mark Warner said the likelihood of federal courts overturning Montana’s ban made it even more essential for Congress to pass the legislation he introduced to give the president new powers to ban or impose restrictions on TikTok and other foreign-owned apps.
TikTok says in its lawsuit 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.”
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena