Eighteen states and two organizations urge federal judge to deny request to halt Montana’s TikTok ban

Eighteen states and two organizations urge federal judge to deny request to halt Montana’s TikTok ban

HELENA – A group of 18 state attorneys general and two separate organizations recently filed amicus briefs in support of Montana’s law banning TikTok from operating in the state. The law was written and championed by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen following well-documented concerns over the app’s massive data-harvesting practices and access to that data granted to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.

The new law requires TikTok to stop operating in Montana and prohibits mobile application stores from making TikTok available for download starting on January 1, 2024. Shortly after Governor Greg Gianforte signed SB 419 into law, the company and a group of users it funded sued and requested a preliminary injunction. A hearing on the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction is set for October 12.

The three groups – attorneys general from across the country, the Digital Progress Institute, and the Institute for Family Studies – joined Attorney General Knudsen in urging the court to deny the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction due to the adverse impact on citizens’ privacy and data security.

Eighteen Attorneys General
The coalition of 18 states argues that SB 419 falls within the States’ historic police powers under the principle of federalism that “each State may make its own reasoned judgment about what conduct is permitted or proscribed within its borders,” and by banning TikTok’s operation in the state, Montana is protecting its citizens’ privacy from TikTok and the threat of the CCP’s data-harvesting practices.

“SB 419 is justified, and Plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary injunction should be denied, 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’s platform harms children in Montana and Amici States. Federal law does not prohibit the States from protecting their citizens from such conduct,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the political party with unchallenged control of the government of the People’s Republic of China, exercises significant influence over ByteDance. Allowing TikTok to operate in Montana without severing its ties to the CCP exposes Montanan consumers to the risk of the CCP accessing and exploiting their data.”

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares led the coalition and was joined by attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah.

Click here to read the brief.

Digital Progress Institute
The Digital Progress Institute (DPI) argues that denying TikTok’s motion is in the public interest because of TikTok’s threat to national security. DPI makes clear that SB419 permits TikTok to continue operations in Montana if it cuts ties with CCP-controlled ByteDance. DPI also addresses the plaintiff’s flawed Constitutional arguments – chiefly that the First Amendment does not bar content-neutral conduct-based regulation that is designed to protect the security interests of citizens.

“Our constitutional fidelity and shared goal of preventing foreign adversaries’ peering eyes into our homes, our thoughts, and our everyday lives depend on the Court getting this right…” the Digital Progress Institute wrote in the brief. “If this Court grants TikTok’s request for preliminary relief, it allows the company to continue to harm consumers and feed more information to the CCP. Indeed, granting TikTok’s Motion only serves to allow foreign adversaries to keep their peering eyes into Montanans’ homes, thoughts, and everyday lives long after the law goes into effect on January 1, 2024. Thus, the public interest is better served with the Court denying TikTok’s Motion.”

DPI is a think tank based in Washington, DC that advocates for a “holistic approach to protect all consumers and entrepreneurs in the Internet ecosystem” that includes “universal privacy rules that protect consumer data across the Internet—and ensure those decisions are in the hands of consumers, not competitors.”

Click here to read the brief.

Institute for Family Studies
The amicus brief from the Institute of Family Studies (IFS) focuses on TikTok’s harmful effects on America’s youth. Specifically, the organization argues that the public interest is not served if the court allows TikTok to continue to harm children while the court assesses its claims. IFS further argues that if TikTok is banned from government employees’ devices out of concern for safety and security, it should most certainly not be allowed on American youth’s devices. IFS also points out that China itself has proven itself to be concerned with youth being overexposed to the TikTok platform.

“The practical effect of Montana’s SB 419 means that children in the state are no longer in threat of the harm TikTok brings to children. The public interest serves no benefit of having TikTok available as the Court evaluates the merits of its case,” the IFS brief states. “The strong actions of the Chinese government bring to the fore the true nature of TikTok. It is why the state of Montana’s work to reign in this powerful product of a foreign adversary is necessary to protect American youth.”

The Institute for Family Studies is a research institute based in Virginia focused on “strengthening marriage and family life, and advancing the well-being of children through research and public education.”

Click here to read the brief.


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