Last week, TikTok filed a lawsuit in the state of Montana after state legislatures banned the app on May 17. According to the lawsuit, TikTok is demanding Montana lift the “unlawful” ban to safeguard their business and its users. They also added that the ban would violate America’s First Amendment right to free speech.
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TIkTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of TikTok users in Montana,” a spokesperson for TIkTok said in a statement.
“We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts,” it added.
The lawsuit also alleges that Montana was abusing its authority by “concerning itself with users’ data and national security” — something that is within the scope of the federal government. They claimed that the ban was enacted based on “nothing more than unfounded speculation.”
According to CNA, TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, argued that Montana was trying to exert control and is violating free speech rights of users in Montana.
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“They care because TikTok is very important to them,” he said, referring to five users who also filed their own lawsuit against the state. He also went on to claim that TikTok protected U.S. users’ data by keeping the data in the country with an American company.
“We believe that we have taken steps that are above and beyond what our industry has done to protect the safety of the U.S. individual,” he said.
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On May 17, Montana became the first U.S. state to ban TikTok, following legislation signed by governor Greg Gianforte that banned app stores from featuring the app in the state by next year.
TikTok claims that 150 million Americans use their app, mostly teenagers and those in their 20s. However, concerns are rampant regarding the Chinese-owned app’s supposed ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which poses and potential national security risk.
In March, Chew had to defend the company’s ties with China in a hearing, amidst uproar by lawmakers who argue that TikTok’s influence impacts the mental health of youth.
The federal government and several U.S. states have already prohibited the app on government devices, while the Biden administration warned that a national ban would be put in place if TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, does not sell its shares.
Montana’s ban is scheduled to be implemented in January 2024, however users who already have TikTok installed would not be affected.
The U.S. federal government and European Commission have prohibited staff from using TikTok. Australia has joined several countries that have also banned the app from government devices, with the UK also ceasing usage of the app by lawmakers.
Despite the pressure, Chew is confident that his company’s app has a “positive impact,” referencing an example of how a user with autism “found his voice through music” which he shares on TikTok.