Montana’s Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill into law on Wednesday that would ban the app TikTok throughout the state, the first such statewide ban on the popular Chinese-owned video platform in the United States.
The bill, which takes effect on January 1, 2024, would prohibit tech companies from providing access to TikTok on app stores within Montana’s borders. The legislation also establishes a fine of $10,000 for companies in violation of its stipulations and penalizes companies which share user data with foreign governments.
“To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” Gianforte tweeted on Wednesday.
Though TikTok is overwhelmingly popular with young people in the U.S., the app has received considerable scrutiny for its collection of user data and purported affiliations with the Chinese Communist Party.
The bill justifies its blanket ban on the popular app by claiming that the Chinese government exercises control over the video sharing app and that TikTok “serves as a valuable tool to the People’s Republic of China to conduct corporate and international espionage in Montana and may allow the People’s Republic of China to track the real-time locations of public officials, journalists, and other individuals adverse to the Chinese Communist Party’s interests.”
Representatives of TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have alleged that the Montana law is in violation of the First Amendment, and the Montana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that the legislation is unconstitutional.
Observers expect the law to be challenged in court before its date of implementation, and many will be watching the expected legal challenges closely, as the precedent set by these court cases could dictate the future of such TikTok bans or even the perennially discussed possibility of a nationwide TikTok ban.
“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,” said TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter, who declined to say whether the company would file a lawsuit against the state.
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