The state of Montana is being sued by the social media company TikTok. This comes only days after state officials voted to ban Montana citizens from downloading the hugely popular app. The lawsuit represents the harshest rebuttal the social media platform made yet in response to scrutiny about the company’s privacy practices and its relationship with the Chinese government.

Politicians in the United States have raised concerns about TikTok’s privacy policies in recent years. In late March 2023, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was questioned by US lawmakers in a congressional hearing. The hearing mostly covered the potential influence the Chinese government may wield over US users. Several times over the five hours of Chew’s testimony, he denied claims that TikTok or its parent company ByteDance share user data with its government. The bipartisan committee was skeptical of Chew’s claims.

TikTok says Montana’s ban that would criminalize usage of the app is unconstitutional as it would infringe on First Amendment rights. The ban was signed into law by Montana governor Greg Gianforte in an attempt to, as he claims, protect the citizens of Montana from having their personal information from being collected by the Chinese government. The ban would make it illegal for TikTok to operate within the state in any manner.

The ban would take effect on January 1, 2024. If TikTok continues making the app available on mobile devices after that date, the state of Montana would impose a fine of $10,000 a day. Google and Apple would also incur financial penalties should they refuse to comply with the state’s ban, as it would be illegal for the services to even offer the option to download the app. TikTok is seeking to invalidate the law, permanently preventing this and any future attempts at a ban from taking effect within Montana. The company claims to have a robust case and believes its challenge is based on an abundance of legal precedents.

By signing the ban into law, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has made the state the first in the US to ban the popular short-form video app. Earlier this year, at the federal level, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill to ban TikTok nationally. TikTok contends in its complaint that the ban is outside the state’s power. It argues that if the state intends to ban the app based on matters of foreign affairs and national security, then the subject of a TikTok ban would only be within the purview of the federal government, leaving the state of Montana powerless to enforce such a law.

Source: NBC News, Reuters

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