Social media company TikTok sued the state of Montana in federal court on Monday, claiming the state’s law banning the app violated its freedom of speech.
Montana last week passed the first statewide law banning the Chinese media platform, most popular for short films, within its borders last week.
The law, which will go into effect in January, would punish anyone using or assisting TikTok in Montana with a $10,000 fine.
The state said it would not enforce the law against individual users, but only against tech companies.
Montana officials said the law would protect the private and personal information of its residents from China’s communist government.
But the company says the state is in conflict with federal law and the U.S. Constitution. He asked the court to suspend enforcement of the law while the merits of the case were considered.
“The state has introduced these extraordinary and unprecedented measures, based solely on baseless speculation. Specifically, the state alleges that the government of the People’s Republic of China (“China”) can access data about TikTok users and that TikTok exposes minors to harmful online content. However, the state cites nothing to support these allegations,” the 62-page complaint reads.
TikTok says the law violates not only its First Amendment rights, but also the more than 150 million Americans who are estimated to use the platform each month.
“This unprecedented and extreme step of banning a major First Amendment speech platform, based on unsubstantiated speculation about the potential access of a foreign government to user data and speech content, is completely unconstitutional,” the lawsuit reads.
The platform’s lawyers also argue that the ban is against federal law because national security is a federal concern, not an individual state’s, and that the ban violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because a state cannot interfere with commerce beyond its borders.
A spokesman from the Montana Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Within 24 hours of the bill being passed, five TikTok users in Montana filed a lawsuit in federal court in Missoula, making similar allegations — that the law violated their right to free speech and that the state had no authority over matters of national security.
TikTok launched in 2017 and became available in the United States in 2018. It has around 7,000 employees in the US and is currently not available in China, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint says that TikTok is owned by ByteDance Ltd., a private company, and is 60% owned by global investors.