TikTok has filed a federal lawsuit against the US state of Montana because a law was passed last week banning the social media app.
Under the new law in Montana, an app store or TikTok itself could be fined $10,000 per day if people are allowed to use or download the app. The fines do not go to the users.
TikTok argues that the announced ban is an illegal suppression of freedom of expression, which amounts to censorship. The law, which is due to go into effect January 1, 2024, “unlawfully curtails one of the core freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment,” TikTok lawyers say in the appeal.
In addition, TikTok states that the national security threat that TikTok would pose according to Montana is not something the state can attempt to regulate, since foreign affairs and national security issues are a federal matter.
TikTok is owned by the Chinese parent company ByteDance. There are fears in the West that ByteDance is collecting data from users or spreading Chinese propaganda. ByteDance firmly denies that. The company says it has never received such requests and will never respond to them.
Under China’s national intelligence laws, any organization in the country must provide data to the government upon request, including personal information about a company’s customers.
Since TikTok is owned by ByteDance, it is not unlikely that it would abide by these rules if the Chinese government wanted information about US citizens. Incidentally, there is no known example of the Chinese government using TikTok as an espionage tool.
It is not the first lawsuit to challenge the law in Montana. Less than a day after the announcement of the TikTok ban, five content creators went to court. The five use the app to promote their business, to connect military veterans or to make funny videos.
Some of them earn substantial amounts of money from this, according to the appeal, which was submitted just hours after the announcement of the ban. A ban would “immediately and permanently prevent plaintiffs from expressing themselves and communicating with others”.
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