It’s not a surprise. TikTok, a subsidiary of the Chinese group ByteDance, filed a complaint on Monday, May 22, against Montana, the US state, which passed a law banning the application from 1.eh January 2024. This prohibition “violates the United States Constitution in several ways”says the company, and in particular the First Amendment, which guarantees “freedom of speech”claims the document consulted by Agence France-Presse.
“TikTok exercises editorial discretion, a constitutionally protected right, to distribute and promote content created by third parties”, the company’s lawyers claim. They add that Montana does not have the legal authority to ban the app on national security grounds, a federal matter.
The complaint also refers to a principle of fairness. “Instead of regulating social networks in general, the law bans TikTok, and only TikTok for criminal reasons (…) based on speculative concerns about data security and content moderation”argue the lawyers.
Many US lawmakers believe the platform, featuring short, entertaining videos frequented by 150 million of their countrymen, allows Beijing to spy on and manipulate users. TikTok has always denied these accusations.
The Parliament of Montana had in mid-April adopted a text ordering the stores with mobile applications (App store and Google Play) to no longer distribute TikTok from 1.eh January 2024. A decision which is welcomed by Washington. The US Congress and the White House are considering similar bills.
The elected officials in Montana also accuse TikTok of harmful effects on the health of the youngest (addiction, depression). Some Democratic representatives have responded that other social networks, such as Instagram, deserve to be regulated on all these issues.
The powerful civil rights group ACLU has also accused the state of censorship. “With this ban, the governor [républicain] Greg Gianforte and the Montana Legislature are trampling on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use this app to express themselves, find information and promote their businesses in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment.”Keegan Medrano, an official with the local chapter of the ACLU, said in a May 17 statement.
Shortly after the announcement of the law by Greg Gianforte, the governor of this state in the northwestern United States, five TikTok users filed an appeal in a federal court in Montana to seek this decision invalid.