Montana Bans TikTok: App May Become Unavailable By January

Charles Oladimeji
Montana legislators made a significant decision on April 14th, passing a bill to prohibit the widely popular app, TikTok, due to concerns about its alleged connections with the Chinese government.
Tiktok's Official Logo
The Official Tiktok Logo. Photo: Alexander Shatov | Unsplash

Montana has now made history as the first state in the United States to officially ban the popular social media platform, TikTok. Owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok gained rapid global popularity since its launch in 2016, amassing over 100 million users and over 1 billion videos within its first year alone.

However, concerns over the app’s potential data collection practices without proper consent have led to Montana’s Republican-led House passing a bill on Friday to ban TikTok, following the Senate’s previous approval last month. The recently passed bill prohibits all residents of Montana from downloading TikTok from mobile app stores. However, it does not specify the impact on residents whose internet connection originates outside the state.

This move comes amid ongoing debates and discussions about the security and privacy risks associated with TikTok’s usage in the United States. During the Trump administration, there were attempts to ban TikTok in the US, citing similar national security concerns.

Reason For The Ban 

The Hompage of a Tiktok Account. Photo: Aaron Weiss | Unsplash

The decision to ban TikTok in Montana was driven by concerns over potential access by the Chinese Communist Party to the 150 million TikTok accounts in the United States, which could be used for spying or disinformation campaigns targeting U.S. citizens. Additionally, there were concerns about the app promoting dangerous activities among young users, such as throwing objects at moving vehicles.

The Montana bill, known as SB 419, is expected to be signed into law by Governor Greg Gianforte and take effect in January. Starting from January 1st, 2024, any App Store that continues to support or allow TikTok to be downloaded in Montana will face a daily fine of $10,000 as per the bill.

However, there is a provision in the bill that could reverse the ban if TikTok’s China-based owners decide to sell their stake in the company or if Congress passes a similar ban. Notably, the bill does not specify penalties for Montanans who are found accessing TikTok once the ban is in effect.

Will The Ban Hold? 

TikTok Splash Screen. Photo: Solen Feyissa | Unsplash

The TikTok team has expressed their intention to vigorously challenge the ban through legal means, which could potentially result in a court battle between TikTok and the law’s supporters in Montana, with the possibility of escalating to the U.S. Supreme Court. Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson, has pointed out that the bill’s backers have admitted that there is no feasible plan for implementing the TikTok ban, as blocking app downloads in a single state would be extremely difficult to enforce.

Oberwetter further argued that the bill represents an act of censorship against the voices of Montanans. The ban is expected to have detrimental effects on small business owners who rely on TikTok as a platform to promote their businesses, as well as influencers who depend on it for their livelihood. Both TikTok and Montana business owners are in agreement that the new bill will cause more harm than good.

In addition, Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr has argued that Montana residents could use virtual private networks (VPNs) to conceal their location and download TikTok, as reported by the New York Times. This highlights the potential loopholes that users may exploit to circumvent the ban, leading many to believe that the law may not ultimately stand due to a lack of concrete evidence of alleged data manipulation or theft.

Do you think the TikTok ban will remain in effect? Let us know in the comments section below!


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