Montana becomes first state in nation to officially ban TikTok after Republican Governor Greg Gianforte Signed the bill into law Wednesday, May 17. The law is set to come into effect in January 2024 and is already facing legal challenges
“To protect the personal and private information of Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” Gianforte wrote on Twitter.
The ban was quickly criticized by the ACLU amid concerns that the bill violated First Amendment rights.
“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana Legislature trample the freedoms of tens of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, collect information and conduct their small businesses in the name of anti-China sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, policy director for the ACLU of Montana. “We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points.”
To protect Montanans’ personal and private information from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) May 17, 2023
The governor’s office claimed in a news release about the ban that “penalties will be enforced by the Montana Department of Justice,” and that anyone who violates the law must pay $10,000 per violation and be liable for an additional $10,000 per day. Violations continue as SB 419’s text.
“Governor Gianforte signed a bill that violates the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state,” TikTok said in a statement to CBS News. “We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, earn a living and find community as we continue to work to protect the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”
Last month, Montana became the first state to pass a bill banning the app — which raised concerns among tech experts about how realistic expectations were around the app.
At a hearing on the bill in March, a TechNet representative said that app stores “do not have the ability to geofence” on a state-by-state basis, making it impossible to enforce restrictions on popular app marketplaces, such as the Apple App Store or the Google Play App Store.
Some have argued that banning the app could violate users’ First Amendment rights. “Montanans are unquestionably exercising their First Amendment rights when they post and consume content on TikTok,” said Jameel Zafar, executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute. “Because Montana cannot establish that the prohibition is necessary or appropriate to any legitimate interest, the statute is almost certain to be struck down as unconstitutional.”
In March, Gianforte joined the Biden administration in banning TikTok from government devices in Montana. which banned the platform from all federal employee devices
Why is TikTok being banned?
TikTok has been an ongoing topic of debate in both local and federal governments, as concerns have grown in several areas, such as the potential for TikTok to become addictive to young users and the app’s ability to use it to spread misinformation or incite violence. While these are concerns for other major social media platforms as well, what makes TikTok particularly worrisome for government officials are privacy issues related to China-based ByteDance’s ownership of the app.
Like all Chinese companies, ByteDance has ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and access to user data has become a concern for Congress, the Biden administration and state and local governments as tensions between the United States and China continue. Now many people are watching A simple solution is to ban the platform.
TikTok has repeatedly denied that it shares any data with the Chinese government.
Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, told CBS News Lawmakers’ concerns about TikTok sharing user data with the Chinese government have been exaggerated and “makes for good politics.” He also said that TikTok collects less data than other social media apps and is working to move user data out of China’s reach to servers in the United States.
Some experts agree that national security concerns about TikTok are unfounded.
Milton Mueller, a professor of cybersecurity and public policy at Georgia Tech, previously told CBS News, “There have been three technical studies done on this. They basically all say what they tell you in their privacy statements.”
On Wednesday, May 17, a group of TikTok users in Montana filed the first challenge to the law in the US District Court in Montana. They alleged that the state’s ban on the app violated their constitutional right to free speech.
“This law seeks to exercise powers over national security that Montana does not have and Montana cannot suppress to prohibit speech,” read the complaint, which was filed by five content creators.
“Montana can no more prohibit its residents from viewing or posting on TikTok than it can prohibit the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it expresses,” the lawsuit continued.
TikTok declined to comment on the lawsuit and has yet to announce its own challenge to the law.
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