TikTok is suing Montana in an effort to stop the US state from banning it over national security concerns, arguing the move is both “unlawful” and “unconstitutional”.

The social media app, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, filed the lawsuit in federal court on Monday, just days after Montana’s governor signed into law a first-of-its-kind bill that would from January prohibit app stores from allowing downloads of TikTok in the state. It would also ban the app from operating in the western state, which has a population of about 1.1mn.

The proposed ban comes as governments and regulators globally have raised fears that TikTok’s China ties could allow the app to harvest data on its users to be wielded for spying purposes. In particular, TikTok has become a flashpoint in rising tensions between China and the US, where it has 150mn users, with Washington calling on the short-form video app to divest from its Chinese parent or face a federal ban.

In Monday’s lawsuit, TikTok argued that the Montana law violates its first amendment rights to free speech, and that the alleged national security concerns used to justify the ban were matters of “exclusive federal concern”.

The company also said that the ban was in violation of US rules on foreign and interstate commerce, and was in effect an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” — a piece of legislation that declares a group guilty of a crime without a trial.

“The state has enacted these extraordinary and unprecedented measures based on nothing more than unfounded speculation,” it said in the lawsuit.

Under the Montana law, TikTok and the app stores, such as Apple and Google, could face fines of $10,000 per violation per day if they do not comply.

Last week a group of TikTok creators filed their own lawsuit challenging the law on first amendment grounds.

The lawsuit sets up a potential court battle over free speech, even after TikTok attempted to distance itself from its parent company by spending more than $1.5bn on “Project Texas”, a corporate restructuring plan to safeguard user data and content from Chinese influence.

Negotiations over the deal have stalled, however, and earlier this year, the US government threatened to ban TikTok if its Chinese owners do not sell their stake — a move that Beijing publicly opposes.

Former president Donald Trump in 2020 sought to ban the app in the US, but the attempt was halted by the courts. TikTok has more recently been banned from government devices in the US, UK, Canada and the EU.

“We are challenging Montana’s unconstitutional TikTok ban to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” a TikTok spokesperson said on Monday. “We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an exceedingly strong set of precedents and facts.”

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