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Officials in Montana recently enacted a bill which prohibits app stores from making TikTok available for download in the state, a move which occurs as federal authorities contend that the platform, which is owned by Chinese technology firm ByteDance, may provide members of the Chinese Communist Party access to user data in the United States.
“The state has enacted these extraordinary and unprecedented measures based on nothing more than unfounded speculation,” said the lawsuit from TikTok, which was filed in federal court.
Attorneys for TikTok contended that the prohibition violates the First Amendment since the law entails “shutting down the forum for speech for all speakers on the app and singling these speakers out for disfavored treatment.” They also asserted that the ban breaches the Commerce Clause, which limits the authority of state governments to unduly burden interstate and foreign commerce, and functions as a bill of attainder, an effective declaration of criminal guilt and infliction of punishment by lawmakers prohibited in the Constitution.
“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” TikTok said in a statement. “We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts.”
Montana Republican Governor Greg Gianforte, on the other hand, has said that the law was intended to protect “private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.” The bill was sponsored by Montana Republican State Sen. Shelley Vance, who remarked that TikTok is a “major threat to our national security.”
Attorneys for TikTok also said that the ban is preempted by federal law since the statute “intrudes upon matters of exclusive federal concern.” Another federal lawsuit filed by five social media influencers last week made a similar argument, contending that Montana lacks the authority to enforce laws related to national security.
President Joe Biden and several state officials have banned TikTok from government devices over data security and surveillance concerns after reports indicated that ByteDance staffers in China used the platform to monitor the locations of specific American users. Members of Congress have also floated various bills to ban the platform across the nation.
Lawmakers at the federal level have additionally drawn attention to the censorship practices implemented by TikTok and called for a mandatory divestiture of the platform from ByteDance. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew insisted in his recent testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that a forced sale of TikTok to an American company would not resolve national security concerns.
“I am well aware that the fact that ByteDance has Chinese founders has prompted concerns that our platform could be used as or become a tool of China or the Chinese Communist Party,” the executive remarked. “Divestment doesn’t address the fundamental concerns that I have heard, as a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. This is not an issue of nationality.”