Montana officially became the first state to place an outright ban on TikTok last week, though as widely expected, the social media app’s parent company has already filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn it.
Last Wednesday, Governor Greg Gianforted signed into law Senate Bill 419, which will ban TikTok in the state starting on January 1 of next year. When doing so, the governor said he was taking action to safeguard residents’ data from the government in China, which many White House officials have said is a fear of theirs.
ByteDance is the Chinese company that owns TikTok, and there have been major concerns about the Chinese government’s ability to access data that’s stored by the company. The fears are due to the fact that China has intelligence laws that say the government can at any time request access to any company’s records.
While there hasn’t been any evidence revealed thus far that officials in China have ever asked to see the data that TikTok stores, there are still significant fears that it could be a major issue.
Just days after Montana passed the ban, though, TikTok filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state, arguing that the ban of its app is an illegal suppression of people’s right to free speech, which ultimately is essentially censorship.
According to TikTok’s lawsuit, the law that Montana passed “unlawfully abridges one of the core freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
The lawyers for the company argue in their suit that the threat to national security that Montana officials raised in passing the law isn’t something they have the ability to regulate. They say that’s because the issues of national security and foreign affairs fall to the federal government.
Ultimately, the suit is seeking to have Montana’s law overturned before it goes into effect at the start of 2024.
Creators on the social media platform filed a challenge to Montana’s law not long after the governor signed the bill last week, alleging that it violates their rights to free speech.
In a statement, TikTok representatives commented:
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana. We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts.”
The lawyers further state that the concerns that Montana officials have over the ability of the Chinese government to access to the data of Americans, as well as their ability to feed harmful content to minors, as baseless. The suit states:
“The state has enacted these extraordinary and unprecedented measures based on nothing more than unfounded speculation.”
Many cybersecurity experts have questioned how Montana would even enforce the ban if the law were to be upheld.
The law states that tech companies are the ones who could face punishment under the law, and not individual users on TikTok.
For example, Google and Apple – which own the app stores on Android and Apple mobile devices – could face fines of as much as $10,000 per day if they allow residents of Montana to download TikTok.