Block apps | TikTok is suing Montana

(San Francisco) TikTok, a subsidiary of Chinese group ByteDance, filed a complaint on Monday against the US state of Montana which enacted a law last week to ban the solicitation next year.

The company says the ban “violates the US Constitution in many ways,” particularly the First Amendment guaranteeing “freedom of speech,” according to the document consulted by AFP.

Many US lawmakers believe that the short and entertaining video platform, which has 150 million Americans, allows Beijing to spy on and manipulate users. The company has always denied these accusations.

But the Montana parliament adopted a text in mid-April ordering mobile app stores (Apple and Google) not to distribute TikTok from 1any January 2024, while Congress and the White House consider similar bills.

“TikTok exercises editorial judgment, a constitutionally protected right, to distribute and promote content created by third parties,” the company’s lawyers say.

They also argue that the US state does not have the legal authority to block the app on national security grounds, which is a federal matter.

The complaint also refers to the principle of fairness. Instead of regulating social networks in general, the law bans TikTok, and only TikTok for punitive reasons. […] Based on speculative concerns about data security and content modification,” the lawyers argue.

Democratic representatives have already indicated during the debates that many of the criticisms of TikTok, about data confidentiality, misinformation, or harmful effects on the health of younger people (addiction, depression) also pertain to other social networks, such as Instagram.

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‘Anti-Chinese sentiment’

Once the governor of this Northwestern state, Greg Gianforte, signed the law into law last Wednesday, many voices rose to accuse Montana of censorship or to suggest that the provision would be difficult to enforce, both technically and legally.

“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature are trampling on the freedom of expression of hundreds of thousands of residents who use this app to express themselves, find information, and promote their small businesses, in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, an official with the local chapter of the Rights Association. ACLU Strong Civic, on Wed.

Five TikTok users have filed a challenge in federal court in Montana seeking to overturn the law.

Under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, “TikTok has the right to distribute information, and users have the right to receive and distribute information as well,” noted Lyrissa Lidsky, a professor of law at the University of Florida.

She explained that the text thus “has a strong chance of being declared unconstitutional”.

” freedom ”

The law would be invalidated if TikTok was taken over by an American company (or from a country that is not an enemy of the United States), and the White House has encouraged TikTok to look for this type of solution if it wants to be able to survive in the country.

The fate of TikTok has been debated in the US for several years. Donald Trump has already tried, unsuccessfully, to ban the app.

But recent trade and political tensions with China are fueling animosity between elected officials and public opinion toward the Chinese government. A supposed Chinese spy balloon flight in February, especially over Montana, didn’t help matters.

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TikTok is already banned from the phones of employees of many organizations, from the European Commission to federal agencies in the United States. India completely banned the service in 2020.

NGOs and elected Democrats repeat, however, that users will only have to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which allows access to the Internet from another location, to circumvent the law.

And they will not be punished, because the law only provides for fines for app stores.

“The irony is that Montana is the anti-government, anti-regulatory capital. All that matters is freedom — except apparently when it comes to TikTok,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, commented Monday.

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