The logo of TikTok is seen on the screen of a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, Aug. 30, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
Montana's effort to cut Montanans off from the global network of TikTok users ignores and undermines the structure, design, and purpose of the internet.
If allowed to take effect, the ban will usher in a balkanized internet where information available to users becomes regionally divided based on local politicians' whims or preferences.
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Two trade groups in the United States have expressed their support for TikTok and its creators in their legal battle to prevent the state of Montana from banning the popular social media platform.
NetChoice, a national trade association that includes major tech platforms, and Chamber of Progress, a tech-industry coalition, filed a friend-of-the-court brief, or Brief of Amici Curiae, in support of TikTok late Monday, said a release by NetChoice on Tuesday.
"Montana's effort to ban TikTok is, ironically, the sort of authoritarian conduct that the state purports to oppose," said Nicole Saad Bembridge, NetChoice's associate director of litigation, in the release.
"Americans' access to information on the internet cannot be dependent on local politicians' individual preferences. The Court should enjoin the TikTok ban to ensure the internet stays open and free," said Bembridge.
On May 17, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte enacted a complete ban on the app over supposed "national security" concerns, making Montana the first state nationwide to ban TikTok and prohibit mobile application stores from offering TikTok within the state. The ban is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
On the same day, five TikTok content creators filed a lawsuit against the state's attorney general over the ban, arguing that it would prohibit Montana residents from using the popular app, infringing on their First Amendment rights.
Los Angeles-based TikTok also filed a suit on May 22 to stop the ban, saying it violated multiple constitutional rights, including First Amendment free speech rights, infringed on the federal government's exclusive authority to administer foreign affairs and hurt local residents.
Photo taken on Aug. 21, 2020 shows a logo of the video-sharing social networking company TikTok's Los Angeles Office in Culver City, Los Angeles County, the United States. (Xinhua)
The harm of this type of platform-specific ban cannot be overstated as it would prevent the flow of information both to and from internet users within the state, the two groups said in the joint court filing sent to the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.
"Montana's effort to cut Montanans off from the global network of TikTok users ignores and undermines the structure, design, and purpose of the internet," said the 24-page document.
"If allowed to take effect, the ban will usher in a balkanized internet where information available to users becomes regionally divided based on local politicians' whims or preferences. That outcome would undermine the fundamental nature and benefits of the world wide web," it said.
It would harm local businesses that rely on TikTok for promotion and sales, chill innovation and political participation, and disconnect Montanans from the global community, said the document.
"Part of the safety and security of citizens is their freedom to interact with others in the ways they wish," the document concluded. Banning TikTok, or any other social media platform, "inherently takes away that freedom," so "this Court should enjoin the statewide ban and restore the constitutional freedoms and balance that the ban would disrupt."
A hearing on TikTok's request for a preliminary injunction is set for Oct. 12, according to an order from District Judge Donald W. Molloy released in July.
In 2020, former U.S. President Donald Trump sought to ban the app, but a series of court rulings blocked the ban from taking effect.
TikTok, used by over 150 million Americans, has faced growing scrutiny in the United States. Some politicians accused the company of sharing U.S. user data with China but failed to produce any evidence. TikTok has repeatedly denied all the accusations.■