TikTok is suing the US state of Montana after it banned the app amid panic over the platform’s alleged links to the Chinese government.
TikTok called the ban “unconstitutional” and filed a federal lawsuit on the basis that the ban violates the first amendment rights of the company and its users. First Amendment rights protect citizens’ freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Montana is the first US state to go ahead with banning TikTok after US congress threatened to do so in March. The ban, which will come into effect in January 2024, was signed into law by Montana Governor Greg Gianforte on May 17. Montana is home to around 200,000 individual TikTok users and 6,000 businesses using the platform.
Amid growing fears over Chinese government ties to the app, TikTok CEO Shouzi Chew was grilled by US lawmakers in March. Besides TikTok’s potential negative influence on democratic processes, US lawmakers across the political spectrum are also concerned about its impact on the mental health of children and young people.
TikTok is already banned on government staff phones in the US and a handful of other countries, but the US government has threatened a full nationwide ban if TikTok does not divest from its parent company ByteDance.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to TikTok’s lawsuit against Montana at a press conference on May 23. Spokesperson Mao Ning gave no comment on TikTok’s actions but maintained that the US has failed to provide any evidence that the platform threatens national security and branded the ban “domineering” and “hegemonic”.
TikTok has denied it has or ever would share user data with Chinese state bodies, but proponents of the ban point to China’s laws on national intelligence as evidence that the company lacks such freedom. The National Intelligence Law, which was passed in 2017, compels companies and ordinary citizens to cooperate with intelligence work carried out by state bodies.