TikTok Sues Montana Over Ban, Cites First Amendment

The social-media company accuses the state of overstepping its bounds by venturing into federal territory

TikTok (Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

TikTok sued Montana on Monday after the state’s ban of the short-form video app, saying it violated the First Amendment.

The lawsuit contested the ban, seeking to ensure that TikTok remains legal in Montana.

“Montana’s ban abridges freedom of speech in violation of the First Amendment, violates the U.S. Constitution in multiple other respects, and is preempted by federal law,” the filing reads.

The filing refuted the grounds on which Montana banned TikTok, citing the concern that its Chinese roots make the app a tool for foreign spying efforts and, as a result, compromise U.S. citizens’ security. TikTok said the state provided no evidence to back up the aforementioned allegation, and that it wasn’t the state’s right to be issuing such bans in the first place, as national security matters are to be dealt with on the federal level.

Furthermore, the filing also stated that “the TikTok Ban violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which limits the authority of States to enact legislation that unduly burdens interstate and foreign commerce.” And beyond that, TikTok argued the ban was an “unconstitutional bill of attainder,” singling out one company and its product rather than imposing regulations on social media companies in general.”

“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 evening knowing it,” said Emily Flower, spokeswoman for Attorney General Austin Knudsen, when asked for comment by TheWrap. “We expected legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect Montanans’ privacy and security.”

She included links to numerous outlets citing the potential threat TikTok poses, such as a NYT piece referencing the Justice Department’s investigation over ByteDance spying on U.S. journalists, an Axios report indicating the CCP maintained access to TikTok’s data, and a BuzzFeed News report indicating China’s access to U.S. TikTok data.

Regardless of whether Montana’s TikTok ban becomes real (it’s set to go into effect January 1, 2024) and effectively removes the app from Montana residents’ Google Play and iTunes stores, there may not be a way to properly enforce the ban, given average citizens’ easy access to tools such as VPNs.

TikTok did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.