TikTok files lawsuit to overturn Montana’s 1st-in-nation ban on the video sharing app

FILE - The icon for the video sharing TikTok app is seen on a smartphone, Feb. 28, 2023, in Marple Township, Pa. TikTok, Inc., filed a lawsuit Monday, May 22, 2023, seeking to overturn Montana's first-in-the-nation ban on the video sharing app, arguing the law is an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights and is based on “unfounded speculation” that the Chinese government could access users' data. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

HELENA, Mont. — Social media company TikTok Inc. filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to overturn Montana’s first-in-the-nation ban on the video sharing app, arguing the law is an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights and is based on “unfounded speculation” that the Chinese government could access users’ data.

The lawsuit by TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, follows one filed last week by five content creators. They made similar arguments including that the state of Montana has no authority to take action on matters of national security. Both lawsuits were filed in federal court in Missoula.

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Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill Wednesday and the content creators’ lawsuit was filed hours later. The law is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, but cybersecurity experts say it could be difficult to enforce.

TikTok says it has not shared and would not share U.S. user data with the Chinese government and has taken measures to protect the privacy and security of its users, including storing all U.S. user data in the United States, according to the lawsuit.

Some lawmakers, the FBI and officials at other agencies are concerned that the video-sharing app could be used to allow the Chinese government to access information on U.S. citizens or push pro-Beijing misinformation that could influence the public.

Chinese law compels Chinese companies to share data with the government for whatever purposes it deems to involve national security.

“The Chinese Communist Party is using TikTok as a tool to spy on Americans by collecting personal information, keystrokes, and even the locations of its users — and by extension, people without TikTok who affiliate with users may have information about themselves shared without even knowing it,” Emily Flower, a spokesperson for the Montana Department of Justice.

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