Montana Governor Greg Gianforte is attempting to figuratively "body slam" TikTok, as yesterday, he signed into a law a bill that bans the app in the state.
Montana has become the first state to ban TikTok (outside of strictly government devices), which has long been the cause of federal debate over concerns about how the Chinese-owned app handles U.S. customers' data.
In recent months, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew answered questions from Congress about the app in a much-memed hearing and maintained that the app is not giving U.S. users' data to China's communist government. Recently, however, an ex-ByteDance executive claimed China does have access to user data in the U.S.
According to Montana's Attorney General's office, the law targets app stores more than individual users. "[The law] would prohibit the operation of TikTok in Montana by the company and users, internet service providers from offering TikTok, and mobile application stores from providing the option to download the application," Attorney General Austin Knudsen wrote in a statement.
"Internet service providers and companies that violate the ban would face a $10,000 fine per day for each violation," according to the new law.
While the law represents an escalation in the general U.S. antagonism toward TikTok, many critics have opined that the law is more political bluster than an actionable ban. After the Montana legislature passed the bill to ban TikTok in April, The Atlantic published quotes from experts about why the state's ban isn't feasible.
According to a trade group funded by Google and Apple, those companies lack the ability to ban the sale of an app in a single state. Even if they could, it wouldn't stop internet users from easily circumventing a location-based ban with the use of a VPN. Enforcing the ban on TikTok would require "an internet structured and governed more like China’s, with a mass-surveillance infrastructure built in," The Atlantic's Caroline Mimbs Nyce wrote.
It is also expected to face challenges in the courts. TikTok itself has called the law a violation of first amendment rights, a sentiment echoed by some organizations such as the ACLU.
The ban is set to go into effect on January 1st, 2024, which means there's also plenty of time for Montanans to download TikTok before the state – somehow – will put its ban into place. Whether the law will last before potentially being ruled unconstitutional (or mark a harbinger of a sweeping change in how the United States regulates the internet) remains to be seen.
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