The popular social media app TikTok is fighting against Montana’s state-level ban with a lawsuit based on free-speech protections.
- On Wednesday, Montana became the first state to ban TikTok at the state level, banning new downloads after January 2024.
- On Monday, TikTok filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in an effort to reverse the new law.
- “This action seeks to prevent the state of Montana from unlawfully banning TikTok,” says the filing.
- TikTok claims that the Montana law violates First Amendment free-speech protections.
- The Montana governor sited Chinese espionage concerns and the exposure of harmful content to children as the core reasons behind the state-level ban.
Why It’s News
TikTok has continued to face intensifying scrutiny in the past three years, following comments by former President Donald Trump that the app was being used to funnel secure U.S. data to the Chinese Community Party. These concerns were picked up by President Joe Biden and repeatedly asserted by whistleblowers working for the Chinese-owned ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok.
TikTok’s representatives have repeatedly asserted that this is false and that the Chinese government cannot access U.S. data. However, repeated assertions to the contrary have suggested that high-level Communist Party officials are in high-level positions at ByteDance. TikTok has attempted to assuage allegations by building local U.S. and European servers to reassure politicians that data is not being accessed by the government.
“The state cites nothing to support these allegations, and the state’s bare speculation ignores the reality that plaintiff 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, including by storing all U.S. user data by default in the United States and by erecting safeguards to protect U.S. user data,” says TikTok’s attorneys.
Western governments have taken the serious espionage allegations against TikTok seriously. The U.S. and Canadian federal governments have already banned the app on government phones and devices. Numerous state and local governments have followed suit to prevent sensitive government data from being accessible by ByteDance. A recent study found that TikTok aggressively draws on internet network information, SIM serial numbers, device serial numbers, phone numbers, GPS location, subscription information, and password managers.