In an effort to overturn the state’s recent ban on the Chinese-owned platform, five TikTok users from Montana who produce content for the short-video app have filed a lawsuit in federal court.
Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana signed a bill on Wednesday that will outlaw TikTok beginning on January 1. The five users are attempting to overturn the law, which forbids TikTok from being made available in the state through the Google and Apple app stores.
The case, which was submitted late on Wednesday in Montana’s U.S. District Court, names Austin Knudsen, the state’s attorney general, who is in charge of upholding the legislation.
Users of TikTok claim that the government is attempting to “exercise powers over national security that Montana does not have and to ban speech Montana may not suppress.” Users think the law infringes their First Amendment rights, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint claimed that Montana couldn’t restrict its citizens’ access to TikTok because of who owns the app or the beliefs it promotes, any more than it could restrict access to the Wall Street Journal.
Knudsen spokesperson Emily Flower claimed that the state was prepared for legal action. We anticipate facing a court battle and are ready to defend the law, she added.
Due to worries about possible Chinese government influence over the platform, lawmakers and state officials in the United States have been calling more frequently for a national ban on TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance.
Five plaintiffs, all Montana residents, are listed in the lawsuit. They are a rancher who uses TikTok to share content about her outdoor adventures, a student who is studying applied human physiology and shares content about her outdoor adventures, a designer of sustainable swimwear who uses TikTok to promote her business and interact with customers, and a man who posts humorous videos on the app.
After the measure was signed by the governor on Wednesday, Knudsen, a Republican like Gianforte, referred to TikTok as “a Chinese Communist Party spying tool that poses a threat to every Montanan.”
On Wednesday, immediately after the governor signed the legislation, TikTok stated that Montana’s prohibition “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” and it promised to “continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”
The law, according to Gianforte, will advance “our shared priority to protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.”
TikTok has consistently denied sharing data with the Chinese government and stated that it would not do so if requested.
Judge Donald Molloy, who was chosen by Democratic President Bill Clinton to preside over the case in 1995, is in charge of it.
TikTok may be subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day if it continues to breach the restriction, according to Montana, which has a population of little over 1 million. Fines might also be assessed for each infraction.
A Commerce Department order issued in 2020 by the former president Donald Trump to prohibit fresh TikTok and WeChat downloads was thwarted in court and never went into effect.