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Virginia, other US states back Montana in TikTok ban

A coalition of 18 state attorneys general, led by Virginia and including Georgia, Alaska, Utah, Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky, South Dakota, and others, announced their support for Montana’s move to ban the Chinese-owned short video app TikTok. They are urging a US judge to reject the legal challenges brought by TikTok and users ahead of the ban’s effective date on January 1.

In a joint statement, the state attorneys general argue that TikTok should not be allowed to operate in Montana “because TikTok intentionally engages in deceptive business practices which induce individuals to share sensitive personal information that can be easily accessed by the Chinese Communist Party, and because TikTok‚Äôs platform harms children in Montana.”

TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, has faced growing scrutiny in the United States over concerns about possible Chinese government influence. The company filed a lawsuit in May to block Montana’s ban, claiming it violates the First Amendment’s free speech rights of both the company and its users. A hearing on TikTok’s request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for October 12.

Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican, previously stated that the state “did the right thing in prohibiting TikTok from operating in Montana as long as it is under the control of a foreign adversary.” The state’s legislature and governor had passed the ban into law earlier.

Lawmakers have accused TikTok of serving harmful content and causing emotional distress to young users. TikTok has consistently denied allegations of sharing US user data with the Chinese government and has stressed its commitment to user privacy and security.

Under Montana’s ban, TikTok could face fines of up to $10,000 for each violation. However, individual TikTok users are not subject to penalties under the law. TikTok has estimated that approximately 380,000 people in Montana use its video platform, representing over a third of the state’s population of 1.1 million.

Former US President Donald Trump had attempted to ban new downloads of TikTok in 2020, but the ban was blocked by a series of court decisions and did not take effect. The ban Montana seeks to impose is one of the first state-level bans of its kind in the United States.

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