Montana became the first state in the nation to completely ban TikTok on Wednesday, when Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill that prohibits the app from operating within the state’s borders.
The law, which will take effect in 2024, makes it illegal for app stores to offer TikTok for download and for TikTok to operate in Montana. It also imposes a $10,000 fine per day for each violation by app stores or TikTok.
Gianforte said the law was necessary to protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, which he accused of using TikTok to spy on Americans and collect their sensitive information.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gianforte said in a news release, calling the law “the most decisive action of any state.”
TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, denied the allegations and called the law unlawful. The company said it has never been asked to hand over its data to the Chinese government and it wouldn’t do so if asked.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement.
The law is likely to face legal challenges from TikTok and its supporters, who argue that it violates the First Amendment rights of users and creators.
“Montanans are indisputably exercising their First Amendment rights when they post and consume content on TikTok,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “Because Montana can’t establish that the ban is necessary or tailored to any legitimate interest, the law is almost certain to be struck down as unconstitutional.”
The law also raises questions about how it can be enforced, given that app stores do not have the ability to geofence apps on a state-by-state basis. Some experts have suggested that Montana could use technology similar to that used to restrict online sports gambling apps, but that would require cooperation from internet service providers and mobile carriers.
TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps in the world, with more than 150 million users in the U.S. and 200,000 in Montana. The app allows users to create and share short videos with music, filters and effects.
The app has faced scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and officials over its ties to China and its potential national security risks. Former President Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok last year, but his executive orders were blocked by federal courts. President Joe Biden has revoked Trump’s orders and launched a review of foreign-owned apps.
- Montana Governor Signs Total Ban of TikTok in the State | The New York Times | May 17, 2023
- Montana governor bans TikTok. But can the state enforce the law? | ABC News | May 18, 2023
- TikTok is now banned in Montana – The Verge | The Verge | May 17, 2023