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Montana is the first U.S. state to ban TikTok

Photo: Dado Ruvic / REUTERS

In order to prevent the new ban on the Chinese short video app in the state of Montana, five TikTok users, who also create content on the app themselves, have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court.

A few hours earlier, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte had signed the bill banning TikTok across the state. It is due to enter into force on 1 January. The law prohibits Google and Apple from offering TikTok in their app stores to Montana users. The state has a population of just over one million.

Main argument: freedom of expression

In the lawsuit filed, TikTok is compared to other media. "Montana can't prohibit its residents from watching or posting TikTok any more than the Wall Street Journal could ban it because it owns it or because it publishes ideas," the lawsuit reads.

TikTok users believe the law violates their First Amendment rights. Accordingly, the state is not authorized to prevent the inhabitants of Montana from accessing and creating lawful expression.

A spokeswoman for the Chinese group, Brooke Oberwetter, had previously expressed a similar view. She said the bill, signed into law by Governor Gianforte, violates the right to free speech and the rights of the people of Montana through an "unlawful ban."

The app, operated by the Chinese company Bytedance, is suspected of giving the Chinese Communist Party access to user data. Most recently, several Western countries had banned public sector employees from using TikTok on business cell phones. The company denies ever having passed on user data to the Chinese government.

With more than one billion users worldwide, TikTok is particularly popular among the younger generation. The short video service has already overtaken other networks such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in terms of time spent on them.