‘Extraordinary And Unprecedented Measures’: TikTok Sues Montana Over Sweeping Ban

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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TikTok has sued Montana for imposing a sweeping ban on the app for users in the state, according to a complaint filed in federal court on Monday.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, on Wednesday, signed legislation that bans TikTok from operating “within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana” and prevents users in Montana from downloading the mobile application from venues such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, with a $10,000 fine for each violation of the measure. TikTok has filed a lawsuit to block that ban, arguing the law violates the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause and is a “bill of attainder” under the U.S. Constitution. (RELATED: Kristi Noem Bans TikTok Use On South Dakota State Devices)

“The State has enacted these extraordinary and unprecedented measures based on nothing more than unfounded speculation,” wrote attorneys for TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, a company based in the People’s Republic of China. They added that the company “has not shared, and would not share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government” despite China’s passage of a National Intelligence Law in 2017 that would ostensibly require ByteDance to provide any data it owns at the government’s request.

TikTok v. Knudsen by Daily Caller News Foundation on Scribd

The complaint lays out four legal reasons why the law should be enjoined. Apart from calling it a violation of First Amendment rights by “shutting down a forum for speech for all speakers on the app” and the Commerce Clause, claiming it “unduly burdens interstate and foreign commerce,” the company’s attorneys say it is a “Bill of Attainder” — a law that targets an individual for specific punishment — which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

TikTok also argues that Montana’s law should be struck down because it interferes with an ongoing review of the company’s national security risk by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The ban “would necessarily disrupt and interfere with that process, which is currently underway,” the lawsuit reads.

Gianforte said that the law, which takes effect in 2024, was intended to “protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party,” per a tweet. Montana’s measure comes as federal lawmakers have introduced legislation to ban TikTok across the United States, while attempts were unsuccessfully made by President Donald Trump to have the company sold to a U.S. owner, such as Oracle, through an executive order in 2020.

The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana’s Missoula Division, is separate from another lawsuit by several TikTok account owners, who use the app for commercial purposes, against the state in the same court. The respondent in both cases is Austin Knudsen, the Attorney General of Montana.

In a statement, TikTok said that was “challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” per an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation. It quoted a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, which claimed that Montana had enacted the ban “in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” and another from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which claimed that “Montana is going to lose.”

By contrast, Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Austin Knudsen, Montana’s Attorney General who was named in the suit, said that “The Chinese Communist Party is using TikTok as a tool to spy on Americans by collecting personal information, keystrokes, and even the locations of its users,” per a statement to the DCNF, vowing that Montana would contest the suit. She added that the risk of TikTok extends to people who do not use the app, but affiliate with those who do, particularly those with “sensitive jobs” in the military and law enforcement, who are “being tracked” through the app.

Gianforte did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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