After months of TikTok bans being enacted on college campuses and in state governments, the state of Montana on Wednesday became the first in the nation to ban the app entirely.
Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the measure, which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2024. That gives Montana’s state government just seven months to figure out one key point: how to enforce it.
To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) May 17, 2023
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has shared concerns about how TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, uses and stores its user data — and how much of it the Chinese government has access to. TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified to Congress in March, saying that U.S. data is being safeguarded. The company employs about 7,000 people in the U.S.
But it looks like it did a little to quell lawmakers’ fears.
“Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” Gianforte said in a statement.
After the announcement, the American Civil Liberties of Montana called the law unconstitutional, per the AP.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter argued that the law infringes on people’s First Amendment rights.
RELATED: TikTok CEO Testifies in House Hearing: We Are Building ‘Firewall’ Around U.S. Data
“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,” Oberwetter said in a statement.
How Does Montana’s TikTok Ban Work?
Downloading the TikTok app in the state will be prohibited, and the government will fine an “entity” (the App Store or TikTok itself) $10,000 per day if someone accesses the app or is “offered the ability” to access or download. Although the law says the penalties won’t apply to users, this means Apple and Google would be liable for any violations in their app stores.
If TikTok is sold to a company not “designated as a foreign adversary” by the U.S. federal government, then the law would become void.
RELATED: Auburn University in Alabama Banned TikTok on School Wifi and University Devices
How Can a TikTok Ban Be Enforced?
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen noted that the tech used to restrict online sports gambling apps in the state can be applied as a way to enforce the TikTok ban, but cybersecurity experts say “it will be extremely difficult — if not impossible — to adequately enforce the law,” per the AP.
The new law will face legal challenges in the months ahead, but some experts are calling this a “preview for the rest of the country,” per the New York Times.