Two U.S. tech groups backed TikTok on Monday in the social media platform’s lawsuit seeking to stop Montana from enforcing a statewide ban on the video-sharing app before the law takes effect on Jan. 1.
In a joint court filing, NetChoice, a national trade association that includes major tech platforms, and Chamber of Progress, a tech-industry coalition, said the state’s “effort to cut Montanans off from the global network of TikTok users ignores and undermines the structure, design, and purpose of the internet.”
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, filed a lawsuit in May in response to the state ban, claiming the law violates the free speech rights of the company and its users.
The company requested a preliminary injunction, and a hearing is set for Oct. 12.
The social media app used by more than 150 million Americans has faced bipartisan calls for a nationwide ban from lawmakers across the country over concerns about the Chinese government’s access to user data since the app is owned by a Chinese company.
TikTok has denied those accusations and said that 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.”
If the ban takes effect, the tech groups argue, it will “usher in a balkanized internet where information available to users becomes regionally divided based on local politicians’ whims or preferences,” adding that “the internet, as a whole, will become fragmented and its value to humanity diminished.”
Montana is the first state in the U.S. to ban the app, and its law could impose fines of $10,000 for each violation by TikTok though individual users would not be penalized.
TikTok estimates 380,000 people in Montana use the app – more than a third of the state’s 1.1 million residents.
Reuters contributed to this report.