Montana Has Already Been Sued Over Its TikTok Ban

The lawsuit argues the state doesn't have the authority.

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This week, Montana’s Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a law banning TikTok on all devices in the state. Five TikTok content creators in the state filed a lawsuit to challenge the law, which takes effect on January 1, 2024.

We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you here.

Lawmakers at the federal and state level have been voicing concerns over TikTok citing national security concerns because it is owned by a Chinese company. Chinese companies are required to hand over data to the government for national security purposes and US politicians are concerned that China controlling such a prolific and important algorithm in the US is a threat.

The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the following creators:

Samantha Alario: Alario is a small business owner who designs and sells sustainable swimwear from her base in Missoula, Montana. She uses TikTok as a platform for business promotion and personal enjoyment, having built a substantial following which has significantly elevated her business.

Heather DiRocco: A former sergeant in the US Marine Corps, Ms. DiRocco is a TikTok content creator based in Bozeman, Montana. With over 200,000 followers, she uses the platform to connect with fellow veterans and create diverse content, including comedy, makeup, and mental health. Her popularity on TikTok generates a significant part of her income.

Carly Ann Goddard: Living in Custer, Montana, Goddard shares content on TikTok about ranch life, parenting, cooking, and style. This platform has enabled her to connect with other mothers and significantly enhance her family’s income, garnering over 95,000 followers.

Alice Held: Held is a student in Missoula, Montana, studying applied human physiology with a specialty in exercise metabolism. She uses TikTok to share her outdoor adventures, gathering more than 215,000 followers.

Dale Stout: Also from Missoula, Montana, Stout is a content creator on TikTok, using humor as his main content form. His account has amassed over 44,000 followers, providing both social connections and a source of income.

“The law takes the broadest possible approach to its objectives, restricting and banning the protected speech of all TikTok users in Montana to prevent the speculative and unsubstantiated possibility that the Chinese government might direct TikTok Inc., or its parent, to spy on some Montana users,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also noted that the state does not have authority over issues of national security.

It further argues that the ban would “immediately and permanently deprive Plaintiffs of their ability to express themselves and communicate with others.”

“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 plaintiffs added.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Montana’s Department of Justice said, “We expected a legal challenge and are fully prepared to defend the law.

“TikTok is spying on Americans. Period,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen told a legislative committee in March. “TikTok is a tool of the Chinese Communist Party. It is owned by a Chinese company, and under China law, if you are based in China, you will cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party. Period.”

Montana’s law will fine any entity, like TikTok and app stores, $10,000 each day for allowing a resident to download the app or access the platform. The lawsuit targets companies and not the users themselves.

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