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TikTok users take legal action against Montana over controversial ban

TikTok users sue Montana

Just days after the state of Montana signed a TikTok ban into law, a group of the platform's users has sued the state, saying it violates their free speech rights.

A report on May 17 revealed that Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana has approved a bill to prohibit TikTok within the state. However, its implementation isn't scheduled until January 1 and could be reversed.

In the meantime, The New York Times reveals that a group of TikTok users has sued Montana. In their legal complaint, they asserted that the recently signed law infringed upon their rights protected by the First Amendment.

According to the lawsuit filed by plaintiffs, they actively engage in activities such as creating, publishing, viewing, interacting with, and sharing videos on TikTok.

They argued that the ban, endorsed by Governor Greg Gianforte on Wednesday, exceeded the state of Montana's jurisdiction. Although the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the US District Court, it was officially recorded in the public court records system on Thursday.

The ban has generated significant protests from TikTok and various organizations advocating for civil liberties and digital rights. Montana legislators and Governor Greg Gianforte, who belongs to the Republican party, argue that the ban is crucial to safeguarding American citizens' data from being accessed by the Chinese government.

TikTok is currently under the ownership of the Chinese company ByteDance.

The company will face penalties per legal regulations for operating its app in the state. Companies like Google and Apple will incur fines if they allow TikTok to be downloaded in Montana.

Montana enacted its law following the federal government and over twenty-five states banning TikTok from government devices in recent months. Lawmakers and intelligence officials have expressed concerns that TikTok's ownership structure could allow the Chinese government to access sensitive user data.

A state-level TikTok ban likely won't last
A state-level TikTok ban likely won't last

They have also raised the possibility of exploiting the app to disseminate propaganda. On the other hand, TikTok asserts that it has never received any requests to share US user data with the Chinese government, nor has it complied with such requests.

Battling lawsuits

So far, TikTok hasn't announced plans for its own lawsuit. However, Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said the ban violated the First Amendment rights of individuals in Montana.

She affirmed that TikTok would continue its efforts to protect the rights of its users.

According to Ramya Krishnan, a legal expert from the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the US Constitution safeguards the rights of Americans to access social media platforms of their preference. Krishnan stated that for a ban to be justified, Montana must provide evidence that their concerns regarding privacy and security were genuine and could not be resolved through more targeted approaches.

"I don't think TikTok has yet committed to suing, but I think it's likely that it will," she said. "Because this is such a dramatic and unconstitutional incursion into the First Amendment rights of Americans, we are certainly thinking through the possibility of getting involved in some way."

Previously, TikTok users effectively prevented the implementation of an app ban. In 2020, a judge ruled in favor of a group of creators who contested President Donald J. Trump's attempt to ban the app. Additionally, TikTok and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, pursued separate lawsuits to halt the president's actions.