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TikTok Files Lawsuit Against Montana Over Download Ban


May 22, 2023

TikTok filed a lawsuit against Montana on Monday over a new law intended to block people from downloading the app, arguing that the ban violates the First Amendment.

“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” a company spokesperson said after the lawsuit was filed. «We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an extremely strong set of precedents and facts.»

TikTok is seeking an «order preliminarily and permanently invalidating and barring defendant from enforcing TikTok’s ban,» according to the complaint.

Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill last week restricting downloads of the immensely popular social media app, making Montana the first state to ban TikTok.

The law makes it illegal for app stores to give users the option to download TikTok and illegal for the company to operate within the state.

In addition to First Amendment concerns, the complaint states that the ban violates a federal priority, meaning that matters of national security and foreign affairs are carried out by the federal government rather than the states.

It also says that Montana is violating the Commerce Clause of the constitution, which limits the authority of a state. «enact laws that unduly tax interstate and foreign commerce.”

Finally, the lawsuit states that the bill unfairly singles out TikTok «for purely punitive reasons, as evidenced by the State’s decision to target Plaintiff with severe penalties based on speculative concerns about data security and the moderation practices of the TikTok.» TikTok content» rather than social media companies as a whole.

Earlier this month, Gianforte drafted an amendment to the bill that would have changed its language to target all social networks, rather than just TikTok. However, the amendment’s language was not included in the final bill because the legislature adjourned before sending the bill to its desk.

Representatives for Gianforte did not immediately return a request for comment. Representatives for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Violations of a ban include any time a user is offered the ability to download the app. Each violation could carry a $10,000 fine. The execution would be handled by the Montana Department of Justice.

It is scheduled to enter into force on January 1, 2024.

TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter previously called the bill «illegal,» saying the app is a platform that «empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state.»

“We want to assure Montanans that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue to work to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” Oberwetter said in a statement Wednesday.

The lawsuit is the second filed against the state’s new bill.

This week, five TikTok content creators – Samantha Alario, Heather DiRocco, Carly Ann Goddard, Alice Held and Dale Stout – also defendant the state, alleging that the ban attempts to suppress speech and «exercises a power over national security that Montana does not have.»

“Montana’s blanket ban prevents our clients, and all Montanans, from engaging in protected speech,” said Ambika Kumar, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the Montana lawsuit. “We are determined to see this misguided and invalid law imposed permanently.”

In response to the creators’ lawsuit, Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Justice, said: «We expected a legal challenge and we are fully prepared to uphold the law.»

Doha Madani and Daniel Arquin contributed.