Skip to content

TikTok is now banned in Montana

Montana becomes the first US state to impose a ban on TikTok, setting a precedent that may impact how the social media platform operates across the country.

In a historic move, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has approved a law that prohibits TikTok's operations within the state, marking the first such ban in the United States. The bill, SB 419, restricts TikTok from functioning within Montana's territory and mandates that the app is removed from mobile app stores for the state's residents.

Governor Gianforte justified the ban, aiming to safeguard Montanan's personal and private data from potential exploitation by the Chinese Communist Party. While the law is slated to come into effect on January 1, 2024, it could either be overturned by a court ruling or become void if TikTok severs ties with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

The specifics of the law, SB 419, clearly state that TikTok cannot operate within Montana. It also restricts mobile app stores from offering the option to download TikTok. However, the law does not punish TikTok users, only holding TikTok and app store operators liable for violations, with potential fines of $10,000 per violation per day.

While the law indicates an unprecedented restriction on Americans' internet access, it comes with a degree of ambiguity, such as the lack of clarity on whether access to TikTok's web interface would count as "operating" within the state. The liability for updates to already downloaded apps is also unclear.

There's no concrete legal precedent for a ban like Montana's TikTok prohibition. Despite this, legal challenges to the ban are expected. Industry groups like NetChoice, representing big tech companies such as Meta, Twitter, and Google, have declared the bill as "plainly unconstitutional." They have argued that the law violates the First Amendment by inhibiting the ability of Americans to share and receive constitutionally protected speech online.

Whether the ban is justified remains debatable. While the bill claims that TikTok collects substantial data from users and possibly shares it with China, the actual occurrence of this remains unconfirmed. Only with further intelligence or whistleblower revelations will the matter become clearer.

Montana's move is a significant milestone in the larger debate around TikTok's operation in the US. Several states have imposed restrictions targeting universities or government devices, while federal lawmakers from both Republican and Democratic parties have advocated for a TikTok ban. Montana's law might serve as a bold sign that politicians are not averse to eliminating popular social networks from Americans' devices.