New York (CNN) — TikTok filed a lawsuit Monday against Montana for a bill that would ban the popular short-form video app in the state starting early next year.
TikTok alleges that the ban violates the US Constitution, including the First Amendment, as well as other federal laws, according to a lawsuit filed in Montana District Court. The company also claims that concerns that the Chinese government could access the data of American TikTok users—which are a key motivation behind the ban—are “unfounded.”
The bill was signed by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte last week and would fine TikTok or app stores up to $10,000 a day for making the app available to personal devices in the state as of January 1, 2024.
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional ban on TikTok to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We believe that our legal challenge will prevail based on an excessively strong set of precedents and facts.”
Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for Montana’s attorney general, told CNN: “We are expecting appeals and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect the privacy and security of Montanans.”
TikTok is seeking the court to invalidate and permanently bar Montana from enforcing the ban.
The TikTok ban in Montana
The Montana law stems from growing criticism of TikTok for its ties to China through its parent company, ByteDance. Many US officials have expressed fear that the Chinese government could access US data through TikTok for espionage purposes, although there is no evidence that the Chinese government has ever done so. Some federal legislators have also called for the ban.
Montana’s ban was a step beyond other states that have restricted the use of TikTok on government devices. But legal and technology experts say Montana, or any other state, is having a hard time enforcing such a ban. Even if the law is allowed to stand, the practicalities of the internet may make it impossible to keep TikTok out of the hands of users.
TikTok claims in the complaint that the app is used by “hundreds of thousands” of people in Montana to “communicate with each other and others around the world on an endless variety of topics, from business to politics to the arts.” .
“This extreme and unprecedented move to ban a major First Amendment speech platform, based on unsubstantiated speculation about potential foreign government access to user data and speech content, is totally inconsistent with the Constitution.” TikTok said in the lawsuit.
China reacts to the ban
Upon learning of the social network’s lawsuit, China’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Montana’s ban on TikTok is an “abuse of state power” and goes against the will of the people.
“I want to emphasize that the US side has not provided any evidence to prove that TikTok poses a threat to US national security,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular briefing.
Mao added that the Montana ban is an “abuse of state power to suppress the hegemonic behavior of foreign companies. What the United States has done goes against the will of the people and undermines the credibility of the United States.”
TikTok’s legal challenge is an indicator of the hurdles Montana and other lawmakers could face trying to restrict the platform in the United States. A group of TikTok creators also sued Montana last week over the state’s ban, saying it violates their First Amendment rights.
— CNN’s Brian Fung contributed to this report.