Montana has become the first state in the country to ban the TikTok app—and it may not be the last.
- Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 419 on Wednesday, creating an official state-level TikTok ban into law.
- “To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” he tweeted.
- As of January 2024, app downloads will be prevented in the App Store, or the stores will be fined $10,000 per day. Individual app users will not be punished.
- There are 200,000 users and 6,000 businesses with TikTok accounts in Montana, the Associated Press reports.
- TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the U.S., with 150 million downloads. The U.S. population is 332 million, meaning nearly half of Americans have an account.
Why It’s News
Numerous reports have emerged in the past several years that have painted a picture of TikTok as a particularly dangerous app from a national-security standpoint.
While there has been no documented instance of the Chinese government knowingly siphoning information, numerous whistleblowers within the company have reported that the government has untrammeled access to the Chinese half of the company ByteDance, leading to allegations of spying and propaganda spreading on the U.S. app that has been taking series by both U.S. political parties.
Multiple state governments in the U.S. have already banned the app from government devices for the protection of sensitive data, and multiple bi-partisan efforts have emerged from Congress to bring down a full federal ban on the app. TikTok has repeatedly reassured the government that spying is not happening and has promised to set up a data server in Texas to localize U.S. data.
The Montana ban has already drawn scrutiny from TikTok and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union that argue that banning the app is an infringement on First Amendment rights and freedom of speech, therefore making it unconstitutional. While no lawsuits have formally been filed, it is expected that one or more groups will attempt to keep the law from going into effect in January or outright overturn it in the courts.
“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,” says TikTok spokesman Brooke Oberwetter.
Trade group TechNet argues that the App Store does not have the ability to “geofence” apps or track where they are being downloaded, which would render it difficult to enforce. Other methods of downloading—through prepaid cards or VPNs—exist that could circumnavigate an App Store ban.