Montana Officially Becomes First State in Nation to Ban TikTok After Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill on Wednesday, May 17. The law will enter into force in January 2024 and is already facing legal challenges.
“To protect the personal and private data of Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” Gianforte wrote on Twitter.
The ban was quickly criticized by the ACLU amid concerns that the bill would violate First Amendment rights.
“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana Legislature trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express opinions, gather information and run their small businesses in the name of anti-China sentiment,” he said. Keegan Medrano, Policy Director, ACLU of Montana. “We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points.”
The governor’s press release on the ban stated that “penalties will be enforced by the Montana Department of Justice” and that anyone who violates the law is required to pay $10,000 per violation, plus an additional $10,000 each day. the violation continues, according to the text of SB 419.
“Governor Gianforte signed a bill that violates Montanans’ First Amendment rights by unlawfully banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state,” TikTok said in a statement to CBS News. “We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, make a living, and find community as we continue to work to protect the rights of our users in Montana and beyond.”
Last month, Montana became the first state to pass a bill banning the app, raising concerns among tech experts about how realistic the expectations were for enforcement.
At a hearing on the bill in March, a TechNet representative said app stores “don’t have the ability to geo-zone” apps for each state, making it impossible to enforce the cap on popular app marketplaces such as the Apple App Store or Google Play App Store.
Some also argue that banning the app could violate users’ First Amendment rights. “Montana residents are undeniably exercising their First Amendment rights when they post and consume content on TikTok,” Jameel Jaffer, executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, said in a statement. “Because Montana cannot prove that the ban is necessary or appropriate to any legitimate interest, the law will almost certainly be struck down as unconstitutional.”
In March, Gianforte banned TikTok from Montana state devices, joining the Biden administration in which also banned the platform from all federal employee devices.
Why is TikTok banned?
TikTok is the subject of ongoing debate in both local and federal government as concerns grow in several areas, such as TikTok’s potential for addiction among young users and the potential for people to use the app to spread misinformation or incite violence. While it’s also a concern for other major social networks, of particular concern to TikTok’s government officials are the privacy issues surrounding its ownership of the app by China’s ByteDance.
Like all Chinese companies, ByteDance has ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and as tensions between the U.S. and China continue to rise, access to user data has become a concern for Congress, the Biden administration, and state and local governments. Many now see banning the platform as a simple solution.
TikTok has repeatedly denied sharing any data with the Chinese government.
Michael Beckerman, head of public policy at TikTok for the Americas, told CBS News that lawmakers’ concerns about TikTok sharing user data with the Chinese government are overblown and “contribute to good policy.” He also said that TikTok collects less data than other social media apps and is working to move user data to servers in the US that are not accessible to China.
Some experts agree that TikTok’s national security concerns are unfounded.
Milton Mueller, a professor of cybersecurity and public policy at Georgia Tech, previously told CBS News, “There have been three technical studies of this. Basically all they say is exactly what they tell you it is in their privacy statement.’
A group of TikTok users in Montana filed the first challenge to the law in the U.S. District Court for the state of Montana on Wednesday, May 17. They argued that the state’s ban on the app violated their constitutional right to free speech.
“The law attempts to exercise national security powers that Montana does not have and to prohibit speech that Montana cannot suppress,” according to the complaint filed by the five content creators.
“Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting on TikTok than it can ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes,” the lawsuit continued.
TikTok declined to comment on the lawsuit and has yet to announce its challenge to the law.