TikTok asks US judge to block Montana ban before Jan. 1 effective date

WASHINGTON, July 5 (Reuters) – TikTok Inc on Wednesday asked a U.S. judge to block enforcement of a Montana state ban on use of the Chinese-owned app before it takes effect on Jan. 1.

TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance and filed suit in May, asked U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy to issue a preliminary injunction to block the first-of-its-kind U.S. state ban on several grounds, arguing it violates the First Amendment free speech rights of the company and users.

TikTok Global Business Solutions President Blake Chandlee said in a court filing the Montana ban “will cause significant and irreversible harms to our business and our brand” and would harm “relationships with advertisers and business partners across the country and around the world.”

TikTok also argues the ban is pre-empted by federal law because it intrudes upon matters of exclusive federal concern and violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which limits state authority to enact legislation that unduly burdens interstate and foreign commerce.

TikTok, which is used by more than 150 million Americans, has faced growing calls from U.S. lawmakers for a nationwide ban over concerns about possible Chinese government influence over it. TikTok insists in its lawsuit it “has not shared, and would not share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government, and has taken substantial measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok users.”

Chandlee said if the ban takes effect “we expect that additional advertisers and business partners will pull back from working with TikTok Inc (which is the entity that receives income from U.S. advertisers, including in Montana).”

Montana could impose fines of $10,000 for each violation by TikTok. The law does not impose penalties on individual TikTok users.

TikTok estimates 380,000 people in Montana use the video service, or more than a third of the state’s 1.1 million people.

Former President Donald Trump in 2020 sought to bar new downloads of TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, a unit of Tencent (0700.HK), and related transactions, which the companies said at the time could have effectively barred U.S. use of the apps, but a series of court decisions blocked the bans from taking effect.

TikTok’s lawsuit names Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who is charged with enforcing the law. Knudsen’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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