Montana TikTokers Sue Over App Ban
Montana’s TikTok creators are saying “come and take it” to Republican Governor Greg Gianforte via a lawsuit filed Thursday that challenges a statewide ban on the app as a violation of the First Amendment.
The lawsuit, submitted by five TikTok creators against Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, argues the state cannot “ban an entire forum for communication-based on its perceptions that some speech shared through that forum, though protected by the First Amendment, is dangerous. Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting to TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes.”
The creators who participated in the lawsuit include a small business owner who designs swimwear, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and several influencers who believe a ban on the app will not only violate their rights to free speech but harm their livelihoods.
Gianforte signed the ban on Wednesday, tweeting that in order to “protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party,” he had “banned TikTok in Montana.”
The ban, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, would prohibit mobile app stores from offering the social media platform to users within the state, as well as level severe financial penalties against them if they do not comply. On Wednesday, Gianforte also issued a separate executive order banning the use of popular applications based in foreign nations on state devices or networks — including TikTok, Telegram, CapCut, and WeChat.
“Governor Gianforte has signed a bill that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.
Since 2022, TikTok has been working to distance its American operations from those of its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The company announced a massive project to migrate American user data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. And during testimony before Congress in March TikTok CEO Shou Chew told lawmakers, who have levied a ban on the apps use on federal devices, that data security problems are a widespread issue across social media companies. “We need to address privacy, I agree with you, but with respect, American social companies don’t have a good track record with data privacy and user security,” Chew said.