TikTok Inc has taken legal action by filing a lawsuit to challenge the newly implemented ban on the use of its Chinese-owned app in the state of Montana. This ban marks the first instance where a state has prohibited the popular short-video sharing service.
The basis of TikTok's argument rests on the violation of First Amendment rights, both for the company itself and its users. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Montana, further contends that the ban is in conflict with federal law, as it encroaches upon matters of exclusive federal concern and infringes upon the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Commerce Clause restricts the authority of states to enact legislation that excessively burdens interstate and foreign commerce.
TikTok, a platform utilized by over 150 million Americans and owned by China's ByteDance, has been facing mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers and state officials calling for a nationwide ban due to concerns over potential Chinese government influence.
Under Montana's ban, fines of $10,000 per violation can be imposed on TikTok, with additional fines of $10,000 per day if the ban is violated. However, the law does not specify penalties for individual TikTok users, and the enforcement mechanism for the ban remains unclear.
In 2020, former President Donald Trump attempted to prohibit new downloads of TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, a subsidiary of Tencent (0700.HK), along with related transactions. The companies argued that these measures would effectively prevent U.S. usage of the apps. However, a series of court decisions halted the implementation of these bans.
Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, highlighted the importance of Congress passing legislation to grant the president new powers to ban or impose restrictions on TikTok and other foreign-owned apps, especially in light of the high likelihood that federal courts would overturn Montana's ban.
TikTok estimates having hundreds of thousands of active users in Montana, a state with a total population of approximately 1.1 million residents.
The company, in its lawsuit, asserts that it has not and would not share U.S. user data with the Chinese government. TikTok claims to have implemented significant measures to safeguard the privacy and security of its users.
Recently, five TikTok users from Montana filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the state's ban.
The lawsuit filed by TikTok specifically names Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who is responsible for enforcing the law. As of Monday, there has been no immediate response from Knudsen's office regarding the lawsuit.
Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Knudsen, expressed the state's preparedness for legal challenges and affirmed their commitment to defending the law, which aims to safeguard the privacy and security of Montanans.
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