HELENA, Mon. (AP) — Five TikTok content creators have filed a lawsuit to overturn a lawsuit planned ban The Montana video-sharing app argues that the law is an unconstitutional violation of the right to free speech.
Montana residents also argued that the state had no authority over national security issues in a complaint filed in federal court in Missoula late Wednesday.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the law into law on Wednesday and said it would protect the private data and personal information of Montana residents from being captured by the Chinese government. The ban is scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2024.
“We anticipated a legal challenge and are fully prepared to defend the law,” said Emily Flower, spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Justice.
TikTok has argued that the law violates people’s First Amendment rights.
However, spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday. She also declined to say whether the company helped coordinate the complaint filed by TikTok content creators.
The creators are five Montana residents who use the video-sharing app to do things like promote a business, connect with military veterans, introduce others to ranch life, share outdoor adventures, or share their sense of humor express. Some of them make significant money from the app, the complaint said.
The lawsuit, filed without public notice just hours after Gianforte signed the measure, says the ban would “immediately and permanently deprive plaintiffs of their ability to speak out and communicate with others.”
“Montana cannot ban its residents from viewing or posting on TikTok any more than the Wall Street Journal could ban because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes,” plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote.
Some lawmakers, the FBI, and officials from other agencies are concerned about ByteDance’s video-sharing app. could be used to allow the Chinese government to access information about US citizens or spread pro-Beijing misinformation that could sway the public. TikTok says none of this ever happened.
A former ByteDance executive claims the tech giant served in the process a “propaganda tool” For the Chinese government is a claim that ByteDance says is unfounded.
China enacted laws in 2014 and 2017 requiring companies to cooperate with the country’s government on state intelligence work. TikTok says it has never been asked to provide its data and will not do so when asked.
“TikTok is spying on Americans. Period,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen told a Legislative Committee in March. “TikTok is a tool of the Chinese Communist Party. It is owned by a Chinese company and under Chinese law if you are a resident of China you are cooperating with the Chinese Communist Party. Period.”
More than half of US states, including Montana, and the federal government have banned TikTok from state-owned devices.
Montana law would ban downloading TikTok in the state and fine any “entity” — an app store or TikTok — $10,000 a day if someone was “offered an opportunity” to access the social Media platform or download the app. The penalties would not apply to users.
Opponents say Montana residents could easily circumvent the ban by using a virtual private network, a service that protects internet users by encrypting their traffic and preventing others from monitoring their web browsing. Montana state officials say geofencing technology is being used on online sports gambling apps, which are disabled in states where online gambling is illegal.