TikTok faces a full ban in the US state of Montana

17 Apr 2023

TikTok logo statue at VidCon 2022. Image: Anthony Quintano (CC by 2.0)

The bill will prohibit app stores from offering TikTok within the US state, though the video-sharing app will likely take legal action against the decision.

In a complicated development for TikTok, lawmakers in Montana have voted to ban the app from operating within state lines.

The bill prohibits mobile app stores from offering TikTok within the US state, with daily fines of $10,000 for entities that allow a “discrete violation” to take place.

“Entities” in the bill refer to mobile app stores and TikTok, while a discrete violation is listed as each time  a user accesses, is offered the ability to access, or is offered the ability to download Tiktok.

The wording of the bill means individual users in Montana will not be at risk of receiving fines, though it implies app stores and TikTok could face significant penalties if people are able to access the video app.

If approved by governor Greg Gianforte, the bill is set to come into force on 1 January 2024. It is unclear how these measures would be enforced if it is enacted. TikTok has also hinted that it will take legal action to oppose the bill.

“The bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalising this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts,” TikTok said in a statement shared by spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter.

“We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach.”

The ACLU issued a letter last week opposing the Montana bill. The organisation claims it will “violate the First Amendment rights” of hundreds of thousands of people in Montana who use TikTok.

Security concerns worldwide

The Montana bill is the latest challenge for TikTok, which is facing scrutiny by governments worldwide due to security and privacy concerns.

As TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, multiple countries have raised concerns about its connections with the Chinese government and whether it could access user data.

All members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, have banned the popular social media app on government devices.

Similar moves have been taken in the European Commission, while France also issued a government ban last month.

US lawmakers have also threatened to issue a full ban on TikTok, unless its parent company ByteDance sells its shares in the US version of the app.

A TikTok spokesperson told SiliconRepublic.com last month that a change in ownership isn’t a security solution as it “would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access”.

In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by a bipartisan committee over a five-hour period on the social media giant’s practices.

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TikTok logo statue at VidCon 2022. Image: Anthony Quintano via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic