TikTok Creators Sue Montana Over State’s Ban of Platform

Suit against state’s attorney general alleges the ban of the social-media platform is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment.

Friday - 19/05/2023 06:10 Author: Editors Desk
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a law banning TikTok in the state on Wednesday. PHOTO: GARRETT TURNER/MONTANA GOVERNORS OFFICE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a law banning TikTok in the state on Wednesday. PHOTO: GARRETT TURNER/MONTANA GOVERNORS OFFICE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A group of TikTok creators is suing Montana’s state attorney general over the state’s new ban of the social-media platform, echoing steps some of the app’s fans took to battle Trump-era efforts to restrict the app.

The creators filed the lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Montana. Samantha Alario, Heather DiRocco, Alice Held, Carly Ann Goddard and Dale Scout are suing the state attorney general, Austin Knudsen, who they say is in charge of enforcing the legislation. They allege the ban is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment among other laws.

“The Act attempts to exercise powers over national security that Montana does not have and to ban speech Montana may not suppress,” the lawsuit says. The creators, who collectively have more than 500,000 followers, say in addition to First Amendment concerns, the law also violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and oversteps jurisdiction that belongs to the federal government.

The case was filed immediately after Montana’s Republican Gov. Greg Gianfortesigned a bill banning TikTok in the state. 

The law prohibits TikTok, which is owned by Chinese parent ByteDance, from operating in the state and app stores such as Google’s and Apple’s from offering the app. Any entity violating the law will be fined $10,000 a day. Individual TikTok users won’t be punished.

Montana could become a test case for wider efforts across the U.S. to restrict access to the popular app that have been playing out in Washington and elsewhere for years.

It’s unclear how the Montana law will be enforced. The bill sponsor declined to provide details when pressed and said the onus to comply with the law is on TikTok. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1 but legal challenges, such as this lawsuit, could delay its start date.

TikTok had been advocating against the bill before it became law. After it was signed, the company said it infringes on Montanans’ First Amendment rights.

A spokeswoman for the Montana governor’s office said, “The governor has an obligation to protect Montanans and their individual privacy right.”

TikTok and the Montana attorney general’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The governor had sought changes to the legislation to broaden it beyond TikTok, with an eye on improving the chances the ban would survive a legal challenge, but the Legislature ran out of time to consider them. Gianforte, when he signed the bill, also directed some state employees to bar the use of all social-media apps tied to foreign adversaries on state equipment and for state business in Montana.

The Trump administration in 2020 tried to force TikTok and its Chinese parent to divest the U.S. operations of the app or face the prospect of being shut down. The company and a group of fans challenged the executive order in court and prevailed. 

Issues over TikTok’s U.S. operations resurfaced in 2022 and in spring 2023. The Biden administration told ByteDance to either sell its stake in TikTok or face a possible ban in the U.S.

Beijing has repeatedly pushed back against U.S. pressure on TikTok and said it would never require companies to illegally gather data and intelligence from overseas. 

Write to Meghan Bobrowsky at meghan.bobrowsky@wsj.com

Copyright ©2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 



  Reader Comments

You did not use the site, Click here to remain logged. Timeout: 60 second