TikTok confident of winning Montana ban lawsuit

More than 150 million Americans use the short-video app, its chief executive says

Shou Chew, chief executive of TikTok, told the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha that his company is 'confident that we will prevail'. Bloomberg
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TikTok is confident of winning the lawsuit challenging the ban imposed on the app by the US state of Montana, its chief executive has said.

“The move by Montana is simply unconstitutional. We have challenged this in the court and we are confident that we will prevail,” Shou Chew told the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday.

Last week, Montana's governor signed legislation to ban TikTok, making it the first US state to ban the Chinese-owned short-video app.

TikTok filed a lawsuit on Monday to counter the ban.

“We have more than 150 million Americans active on our platform and more than a billion around the world,” Mr Chew said.

“People use TikTok as a place for expression. It's a very different experience from the other apps that are available in the market. This is one for discovery, for free expression.”

Currently, five million small businesses in the US depend on TikTok, he said.

“Ultimately, it is about providing value to these users, and making sure that we continue to provide them a great service that benefits them,” he said.

TikTok is in a battle for survival in the US, where politicians across the country are working to ban it over unproven fears the Chinese government can harvest Americans' personal data from the app.

Mr Chew said there were some myths and misconceptions about TikTok.

“TikTok is not available in mainland China today. As we said, many times, the Chinese government has actually never asked us for user data,” he said.

“Beyond that, we have built over the last two years, something we call internally Project Texas. It is to ensure that American data is stored on American soil by an American company and overseen by American personnel.”

Mr Chew said Project Texas is truly “an unprecedented project that none of the other companies in our industry has ever attempted”.

These are the places that have banned TikTok

These are the places that have banned TikTok

“We believe that we have taken steps above and beyond what our industry has done to protect the safety of the US user data, which is very important,” he said.

US-headquartered tech corporation Oracle and TikTok are working together with the US government to finalise the details of Project Texas, Mr Chew said.

“And because we have so much learning from that project, we started Project Clover, a very similar project for Europe, a few months ago,” he said.

“We will continue to invest, to make sure that our data is as safe as possible.”

Project Clover, launched in March, is a programme focused on creating a secure enclave for European TikTok user data. TikTok will work with a third-party European security which will audit its data controls and protections, monitor data flows and will make it harder to identify individual users in the data.

“Project Clover and Project Texas are unprecedented projects that we're putting into place that will allow the data to be managed by local employees, and to have third party local companies monitor it,” Mr Chew said.

Updated: May 23, 2023, 12:42 PM