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Montana governor signs TikTok ban into law

By | Published on Thursday 18 May 2023


The governor of the US state of Montana yesterday signed into law what is basically a TikTok ban. From 1 Jan next year it will be illegal to download the TikTok app within the state.

Confirming that he had now formally approved the ban, Governor Greg Gianforte declared on Twitter: “To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana”.

The new law, passed by lawmakers in Montana last month, is a response to widespread concerns in political circles that the Chinese government can access TikTok user-data via the app’s Chinese owner Bytedance.

Those concerns are shared across the political spectrum in many countries, and several governments worldwide have banned their employees from using the app on official devices. Despite TikTok’s ongoing insistence that there are no data security issues on its platform.

In terms of more comprehensive restrictions, India outright banned TikTok usage in 2020. Former US President Donald Trump also attempted to instigate a similar ban while he was still in power, but that ran into legal problems in the courts and never went into effect.

The Montana ban is also likely to encounter similar legal obstacles, with TikTok adamant that it violates the free speech rights of US citizens as granted by the American constitution.

A spokesperson said yesterday: “Governor Gianforte has signed a bill that infringes on 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”.

It added: “We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana”.

It remains to be seen how TikTok’s First Amendment arguments will fair in court. However, there are efforts in US Congress to provide current US President Joe Biden with new powers to instigate a TikTok ban if security concerns warrant such a thing, removing some of the legal issues that caused Trump’s ban to falter.

Beyond the legal issues, there are also some technical questions about how effectively Apple and Google can restrict access, via their respective app stores, to any one app on a state-by-state basis. And also how the ban will impact on those Montanans who already have TikTok installed on their devices. Or at least, those Montanans who don’t know how to use a VPN.