Montana TikTok Ban Signed Into Law

TikTok is officially illegal in Montana. On Tuesday Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law a full ban of the Chinese-owned app within the state’s borders

“To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” Gianforte declared on Twitter shortly after.

TikTok is already banned on Montana government devices as it is on U.S. federal government devices. But the statewide ban, which goes into effect January 1, 2024, essentially makes it a crime for app stores like Google Play and iTunes to even offer it to Montana residents. The ban also threatens TikTok and parent company ByteDance with fines, should if they make any attempts to violate or subvert it.

The ban states that “Tiktok may not operate within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana,” which is defined as either “the operation of tiktok by the company or users,” or “the option to download the tiktok mobile application by a mobile application store.”

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But the law doesn’t explain how the ban will be monitored, let alone enforced, and experts have pointed out since it was first passed by Montana’s legislature in April that it likely unenforceable, period.

Even if Google, Apple and other major app sellers comply, there is no technological means by which Montana could block the app from working within the state. Further, individual state governments cannot force other states to adopt their laws, nor can they prevent residents who travel from engaging in activities that are legal in those other states.

The ban does threaten individual users with fines for any “discrete violation” of the law, but this implies a massive surveillance apparatus that doesn’t exist in Montana and might be subject to constitutional challenges. That’s on top of other constitutional issues, such as the fact the ban refers specifically to TikTok might, experts say, qualify it as a bill of attainder. There are also multiple first amendment concerns.

Critics also note that in order to abide by the law, TikTok would need to collect even more user data than it currently

Likely the ban will be easily evaded via VPN, and ignored by any tourist visiting Montana who uses TikTok.

The privacy concerns raised by Montana officials have also been raised at the federal level, though it remains to be seen if the U.S. government will attempt to ban the app nationwide, as countries such as India have done.

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