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TikTok sues Montana in bid to overturn statewide app ban

TikTok has sued Montana after it recently became the first state to sign a bill into law that will ban the popular app statewide from January 1 citing national security concerns linked to its Chinese owner.

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“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” TikTok said in a statement. “We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts.”

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in the United States District Court for the District of Montana, aims to overturn the ban, which it claimed is “unlawful” as it goes against U.S. free speech rights. It also said that Montana’s claim that TikTok is a national security threat encroaches on matters of exclusive federal concern and therefore the state should not be attempting to regulate the app on this basis.

Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and with around 150 million users in the U.S., TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny in many parts of the world over fears that user data could be accessed by the Chinese government. Some in the U.S. have also suggested that the Chinese authorities could interfere with the app’s algorithm to serve up pro-China content or content that’s harmful to U.S. interests. TikTok has always refuted allegations of wrongdoing.

The suit says that Montana’s concerns that Chinese officials can access data belonging to U.S.-based TikTok users are without foundation, claiming that the state has “enacted these extraordinary and unprecedented measures based on nothing more than unfounded speculation.”

The move by TikTok to sue Montana comes a few days after a group of five TikTok creators took similar action against the Treasure State following the ban.

More than half of U.S. states have so far banned the app from being used on federal devices, but Montana last week became the first to bring forward legislation that attempts to stop downloads of the app within its state borders.

Montana’s ban will not prevent current users from accessing the app. Instead, the ban aims to disrupt the app’s availability by threatening a $10,000 fine for companies such as TikTok, Apple, and Google for each day the app remains in app stores from which users in Montana can download it.

Some have suggested Montana’s law is more symbolic as it could be a challenge to enforce, though if Montana’s action prompts a slew of other states to follow suit then its ban is certain to be viewed in a different light.

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Trevor Mogg
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