A group of five TikTok users have filed a lawsuit against Montana’s Republican attorney general in an effort to block what they argue is an “unconstitutional” and “dangerous” forthcoming ban on the Chinese-owned app, after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed a first-of-its-kind bill into law Wednesday to essentially outlaw TikTok in the state.
The plaintiffs—a group of “creators and viewers of content on TikTok”—portrayed the ban as a blatant violation of the First Amendment, while also claiming the policy is “not legitimate” because Montana is overstepping its state authority by enacting the ban out of national foreign policy or security concerns.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Missoula, Montana.
Gianforte tweeted Wednesday that he signed the bill “to protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban is set to take effect on January 1, which will prevent people from downloading TikTok in Montana and fine app store operators $10,000 per day if they offer the app.
A spokesman for Attorney General Austin Knudsen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
“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 lawsuit says.
What To Watch For
The judge handling the case could issue an injunction keeping the ban from taking effect until legal proceedings are finished. Clinton-appointed Judge Donald Molloy has been assigned the case in Montana federal district court.
TikTok’s status has become a fraught political issue around the country, with both top Republicans and Democrats voicing serious concerns about potential security and privacy risks due to the app’s parent company ByteDance’s connection to China’s communist government. TikTok has repeatedly claimed the concerns are unfounded, stating China has not given it orders to spy on Americans and it wouldn’t comply if asked to do so (ByteDance had planned to use TikTok to spy on Americans, including Forbes reporters). Talk of a national ban has also been met with resistance from the massive cohort of TikTok creators and users in the U.S., which is overwhelmingly composed of younger Americans. The app claims to have more than 150 million users in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out against Montana’s ban, arguing it “tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet.”
What We Don’t Know
It’s not clear how Montana will enforce the ban even if it’s legally upheld, including how it will handle apps downloaded before the ban takes effect.
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban—But Legal Challenges Are Expected (Forbes)
How A TikTok Ban Would Work—And How TikTok Could Fight Back (Forbes)