TikTok Inc., a social media business, filed a lawsuit on Monday to challenge Montana’s first-in-the-nation ban on the video-sharing app, claiming it violates the right to free speech and is based on “unfounded speculation” that the Chinese government would have access to user data.
Following a lawsuit filed last week by five content creators who made similar claims, including that Montana cannot take action on national security issues, TikTok has filed one on its behalf. Both lawsuits were submitted to the Missoula federal court.
The content creators’ complaint was filed hours after the bill was signed into law on Wednesday by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte.
The law is anticipated to go into force on January 1st. TikTok has taken steps to preserve the privacy and security of its users, including storing all U.S. user data in the United States, the firm claims in its lawsuit. TikTok has not shared and will not share U.S. user data with the Chinese government.
The FBI, several senators, and representatives from other agencies are worried that the ByteDance-owned video-sharing app may be used by the Chinese government to gain access to data on American residents or to disseminate propaganda in favor of Beijing that could sway public opinion.
Chinese legislation requires businesses to provide information to the government for any reasons the government believes to be related to national security. As per TikTok, this has never occurred.
“TikTok monitors Americans. Period,” said Austin Knudsen, the Montana attorney general whose office wrote the law, to a parliamentary committee in March. Knudsen’s office said they were ready to defend the new law in court and anticipated lawsuits.
TikTok has been prohibited from government-owned devices by the federal government and roughly half of the states in the US, including Montana.
TikTok downloads are not permitted in Montana under the state’s new statute. Any “entity” — such as an app store or TikTok — would be subject to a daily $10,000 fine for each occasion when a user “is offered the ability” to browse the social networking site or download the app. Users would not be subject to the fines.