TikTok Sues Montana Over Statewide Ban

May 23, 2023

TikTok filed suit against the state of Montana Monday over its new law banning the use of the video sharing app statewide.

Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation a week ago that made Montana the first state in the U.S. to impose a total ban on TikTok, though more than a dozen other states, Congress and the White House have taken actions to ban the app on government devices.

The restrictions began after FBI Director Chris Wray in November warned that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control data collection on millions of American users, or to control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.

Upon its signing Gianforte said the law, which doesn’t take effect until January 1, would protect Montana residents’ private data and personal information from being harvested by the Chinese government.

On the same day that the law was signed a handful of TikTok content creators filed their own lawsuit aiming to overturn Montana’s ban.

TikTok’s federal lawsuit also seeks to overturn the law, asserting that Montana’s “extraordinary and unprecedented measures [are] based on nothing more than unfounded speculation.”

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement that the law is “unconstitutional” and that the company, owned by Chinese corporation ByteDance, is seeking to “protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana.”

According to TikTok’s lawsuit, company data from March estimated that some 110,000 monthly active users accessed the app around Missoula, the state’s second-largest metropolitan area and where the University of Montana is based. 

Montana officials did not respond to TikTok’s ban but after last week’s suit by content creators was filed Emily Flower, a spokesperson for the Montana Department of Justice, responded by saying, “We expected a legal challenge and are fully prepared to defend the law.”

TikTok reportedly has more than 1 billion monthly active users in more than 150 countries worldwide, including a reported 150 million users in the U.S.

According to Pew Research, 67% of U.S. 13 to 17-year olds use TikTok, with 16% of those teens saying they use the app almost constantly.

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