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TikTok Pleads for Injunction Against Montana Ban

TikTok finds itself on a legal collision course as it pleads for a halt to a looming Montana ban on its operations.

TikTok logo
TikTok logo

Chinese-based tech giant, TikTok, has urged a U.S. judge to forestall the enforcement of a ban imposed by Montana. Slated to take effect from the dawn of the new year, the popular app has sought a last-minute reprieve, lodging its request on Wednesday.

Citing Free Speech and Business Impact in its Defense

The ByteDance-owned company, which first instigated legal proceedings in May, petitioned U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy for a preliminary injunction. The heart of their argument is that the ban infringes on the First Amendment free speech rights of the organization and its patrons.

TikTok Global Business Solutions President, Blake Chandlee, voiced concerns about the repercussions of the ban on business operations. In a court filing, he warned of "significant and irreversible harms" to their business and brand. Chandlee added that the ban would also undermine "relationships with advertisers and business partners across the country and around the world."

Federal Law and Commerce Clause as TikTok's Shield

Beyond a free speech perspective, TikTok asserts that the Montana ban oversteps state boundaries by encroaching on areas of exclusive federal jurisdiction. This intrusion, they argue, infringes the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause. This clause restricts state power to legislate in ways that unduly obstruct interstate and international commerce.

User Data Protection and the Impact of the Ban

TikTok, boasting a colossal U.S. user base of over 150 million, has been battling rising demands from U.S. legislators for a countrywide ban amid fears of Chinese government interference. In their legal defense, TikTok has staunchly denied sharing or having any intentions of sharing U.S. user data with the Chinese government. They've highlighted significant measures taken to safeguard the privacy and security of their users.

The company has cautioned that should the ban become operational, more advertisers and business partners are likely to sever ties with TikTok Inc., the income-generating entity for U.S. advertisers.

The Stakes and Montana's Response

Montana has made clear that it is prepared to levy hefty penalties on TikTok for each breach, amounting to $10,000. However, individual TikTok users can breathe easily, as no penalties will be enforced on them.

Approximately 380,000 Montana residents, representing over a third of the state's 1.1 million populace, are active users of the video service.

In this unfolding legal drama, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, tasked with enforcing the law, is named in TikTok's lawsuit. His office, as of Wednesday, had not yet offered a response to these latest developments.

Echoes of the Past: Trump's Attempted Ban

This is not the first time that TikTok has been in the U.S. government's crosshairs. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump sought to prohibit new downloads of TikTok and fellow Chinese-owned app WeChat, which is a subsidiary of Tencent. The move, the companies claimed, could have effectively barred U.S. use of the apps, but a string of court verdicts successfully staved off the bans.