Montana residents weigh in on TikTok ban

STORY: Reaction to Montana's statewide ban of TikTok was swift and broad on Thursday as users voiced dismay and experts weighed in on its legality.

On Wednesday, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation to ban TikTok in the state, effective January of next year.

The next day, five TikTok users in Montana filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the ban. In the suit, the users claimed the law violates their First Amendment rights.

TikTok, which is owned by China's ByteDance, has faced growing calls from U.S. lawmakers to ban the app nationwide over concerns about potential Chinese government influence over the platform.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that it has or would ever share data with the Chinese government.

Tiktok has over 150 million Americans users, including around 200,000 in Montana. The new ban prohibits Google or Apple app stores from offering TikTok within Montana state lines.

Montana based Tiktoker Christian Pool earns a small income from the app making what he describes as 'satirical' videos about Montana.

"There’s still four years, of, you know, me growing this fan base. And all of a sudden, you know, one day, our governor doesn’t like it, it goes away… I don’t know. I’d be pretty p.o.’d a bit," he said.”

Meanwhile some in the city of Bozeman cautiously agreed with the idea of a ban.

[Johan / Montana resident]

"It seems like a good thing. If it's trying to steal people's information, it's probably a good thing."

Jenna Leventoff, a Senior Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), worries about the impact of the ban on small businesses.

[Jenna Leventoff / Senior Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)]

"They're concerned about losing their access to this app, especially small business owners. I have heard from people in Montana that use TikTok to access customers across the country. It's a really small state. The customer base is small. They need TikTok, you know, to build a business."

"Throughout our history, the government has used national security concerns to justify violations of our free speech rights. It's the oldest trick in the book to try to justify taking away the speech of Americans, and that's why it's something that we need to fight."

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Montana... and names the state’s attorney general, who is charged with enforcing the law.

Their office said that it had expected and is fully prepared to fight lawsuits over the new ban.