Chinese-owned TikTok Inc filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of Montana’s ban on the short-form video hosting platform, arguing the move violates First Amendment free speech protections.
Last week, Montana became the first state in the union to ban TikTok, with Republican Governor Greg Gianforte claiming the legislation was necessary in order to protect the state’s residents from “the Chinese Communist Party,” with critics of the app claiming the regime in Beijing has access to the data of 150 million American citizens who use the platform.
In response, TikTok Inc — which is owned by China’s ByteDance — filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Montana, claiming the ban amounted to a violation of free speech protections guaranteed in the First Amendment.
The suit, according to the Reuters news agency, goes on to assert the Montana legislation violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which sets limits on the power of state governments to impose undue restrictions on interstate and foreign commerce.
The company also claimed in its filing that the company “has not shared, and would not share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government, and has taken substantial measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok users.”
The legislation in Montana would allow the state’s Department of Justice to fine app stores or TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance $10,000 for each discrete violation of the law, and an additional $10,000 for every day that the breach continues.
It is unclear, other than with the threat of financial penalties, how the state would ban the app from its 100,000 users in Montana, with the local government lacking the ability to actually censor websites or apps on the internet by itself.
The battle at the state level comes amid a wider push in Washington to ban the Chinese-owned app outright from the entire country.
While most Americans are in favour of banning TikTok, conservatives have warned that the current legislation being considered in the Congress, would grant the federal government draconian powers to censor the internet as a whole.
Some have compared the Restrict Act that would ban TikTok to the Patriot Act, a law that was quickly passed in 2001 following the September 11th terror attacks that granted wide-ranging authority for intelligence agencies to surveil the American citizenry.
Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, for instance, said in March: “This bill isn’t about banning TikTok. It’s never about what they say it is. Instead, this bill would give enormous and terrifying new powers to the federal government to punish American citizens and regulate how they communicate with one another.”