Five users in the state of Montana who generate material that is put on the TikTok short-video app have filed a lawsuit in federal court in an effort to stop the state’s new ban on the platform that is controlled by the Chinese government.
On Wednesday, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed into law a ban on the use of the app TikTok across the state, which will take effect on January 1. The five users want the legislation overturned because it makes it illegal for software shops like Alphabet’s Google Play and Apple’s software Store to provide TikTok to customers located inside the state.
The case, which was submitted to the US District Court in Montana at the end of Wednesday, names Attorney General Austin Knudsen as a defendant. Knudsen is responsible for upholding the law in the state.
The users of TikTok contend that the state is attempting to “exercise powers over national security that Montana does not have and to ban speech that Montana may not suppress.” According to the allegations made in the lawsuit, users feel that the legislation infringes their rights under the First Amendment.
According to the complaint, the state of Montana does not have the authority to prevent its citizens from accessing or publishing on TikTok because of the opinions expressed in the Wall Street Journal or the ownership of the newspaper.
Emily Flower, who serves as a spokesman for Knudsen, said that the state was prepared for any potential legal action. “We expected a legal challenge and are fully prepared to defend the law,” she added. “We expect there to be a legal challenge.”
TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, which is based in China, is coming under increasing pressure from politicians and state authorities in the United States to have the app banned worldwide due to worries over the possibility of influence from the Chinese government over the site.
The lawsuit claims that the five plaintiffs, all of whom are residents of Montana, include a designer of sustainable swimwear who uses TikTok to promote her company and engage with customers; a former United States Marine Corps sergeant who uses TikTok to connect with other veterans; a rancher who uses TikTok to share content about her outdoor adventures; a student who is studying applied human physiology and shares content about her outdoor adventures; and a man who shares humorous videos on Tumblr.
Knudsen, who is also a Republican like Gianforte, referred to TikTok on Wednesday, after the governor had signed the measure into effect, as “a Chinese Communist Party spying tool that poses a threat to every Montanan.”
TikTok issued a statement on Wednesday, immediately after the governor signed the bill, claiming that Montana’s prohibition “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” and that the company would “continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”
According to Gianforte, passage of the measure would advance “our shared priority to protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.”
TikTok has made it clear that it would not comply with any requests from the Chinese government to hand over user information, despite the company’s repeated denials that it has ever provided the Chinese government with user information.
Judge Donald Molloy, who was nominated to his position in 1995 by Democratic President Bill Clinton, has been given responsibility for the case.
TikTok may be subject to penalties for each infringement as well as extra penalty of $10,000 (about Rs. 8,27,600) each day if it continues to violate the restriction, according to the state of Montana, which has a population of little over 1 million people.
The effort by former President Donald Trump to prohibit new downloads of TikTok and WeChat via an order issued by the Commerce Department in 2020 was stopped by numerous courts and hence was never allowed to go into force.