According to the lawsuit, Senate Bill 419 “attempts to exercise national security powers that Montana does not have and to ban speech Montana may not suppress.”
Several TikTok founders have launched a lawsuit to overturn Montana’s prohibition of the well-known app.
Gov. Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 419, making Montana the first US state to forbid access to or usage of the social network for everyone, prompting the action.
Set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, the law “attempts to exercise powers over national security that Montana does not have and to ban speech Montana may not suppress,” according to Wednesday’s filing with the US District Court in Missoula, Montana.
“Montana has no authority to enact laws advancing what it believes should be the United States’ foreign policy or its national security interests, nor may Montana ban an entire communication forum based on its perceptions that some speech shared through that forum, though protected by the First Amendment, is dangerous,” the lawsuit claims(Opens in a new window).
Under the law, ByteDance-owned TikTok and app stores (like Apple’s App Store and Google Play) that list it for download could be fined $10,000 each time someone accesses or is offered the ability to access the platform—plus an additional $10,000 every day thereafter. Penalties do not apply to individuals who download or use TikTok.
The complaint claims that Montana cannot restrict its citizens’ access to TikTok because of who controls the platform or the views it promotes, any more than it could restrict access to The Wall Street Journal. “Even if Montana were able to control any of the speech that users of TikTok share, SB 419 uses a sledgehammer when the First Amendment calls for a scalpel,” the author writes.
Plaintiffs Samantha Alario, Heather Dirocco, Carly Ann Goddard, Alice Held, and Dale Stout create, publish, view, interact with, and share TikTok videos with “significant audiences.” These communities, the lawsuit argues, allow users to connect, build livelihoods, make friends, and share information.
The case, which names state Attorney General Austin Knudsen as the defendant, claims that “for some of the plaintiffs and other Montana creators, being able to express themselves on TikTok has given them a great sense of purpose and positively impacted their mental health.”
Knudsen “expected a legal challenge,” a spokesperson for his office told The New York Times(Opens in a new window), adding that he is “fully prepared to defend the law,” which will employ geofencing technology to restrict app use within state borders.
While stressing that Montanans “can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” TikTok claims that Gianforte’s bill “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana.”
TikTok has been under intense scrutiny amid claims that Chinese owner ByteDance puts US users’ personal data at risk. The legal team representing the TikTok creators, Davis Wright Tremaine, filed a lawsuit in October 2020 to block the former president Trump’s executive order, which sought to outlaw the app unless it was purchased by a US company, according to Axios (Opens in a new window). President Biden rescinded that executive order in mid-2021, though he later signed a spending bill that bans TikTok from government-issued devices.