The first TikTok ban is set to go into effect in Montana.
Talks of a federal TikTok ban have been ongoing, but Montana has moved forward with a state ban on the popular social media app. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Montana lawmakers moved a bill forward on Friday that would require app stores to stop carrying the app on their digital storefronts. The measure is expected to be signed by the Montana governor.
The TikTok ban would currently only ban future downloads of the app in the state, as users who already have the app would be able to continue using it. The bill passed with a vote of 54-43, which also included the measure that TikTok would not be allowed to operate in the state. The law is set to go into effect in 2024.
Of course, with quite a few months to go before the TikTok ban goes into effect, there’s time for the measure to be challenged in the court system. It seems likely that Montana’s ban may act as a sort of legal testing ground for how a federal ban might be handled. Restrictions on TikTok would likely be difficult to enforce for several reasons.
Likely, the primary reason that the TikTok ban would run into issues is First Amendment rights. Historically, TikTok has come out on top in situations where legislators have attempted to restrict its use. Courts have continued to block attempts, and even if measures pass, third-party companies like Google and Apple will have to cooperate with the measures and be willing to drop the app from their platforms.
Lawmakers who champion the TikTok ban often point to national security concerns when attempting to pass restrictions or ban the app entirely. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, but legislators have so far failed to prove that TikTok is reporting user data to the Chinese government. The legislation also cites concerns for user privacy and alleges that the app promotes dangerous content to minors.
One potential solution that has popped up a few times is a forced sale of the company’s US operations in lieu of an outright TikTok ban. Acquisition deals with both Oracle and Microsoft have been at the table at some point, but these have fizzled out. China has also made it clear that it would strongly oppose any attempts at a forced sale in the future.
This Montana TikTok ban comes just weeks after TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before Congress to answer security and privacy-related questions in front of Congress. His answers did not do much to assuage the concerns about privacy and national security risks. So, it’s not surprising that this legislation has come to pass, and it seems likely we may see more of these measures being passed soon — depending on how the Montana situation is handled.
While a federal TikTok ban seems unlikely, there may be a greater push to restrict the app in the near future. For now, monitoring this ongoing situation may give us the best idea of what’s ahead. Until then, Montana residents might want to learn their favorite TikTok dances while they still can.