Montana is the first state to ‘ban’ TikTok, but it’s complicated

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill into law on Wednesday, banning TikTok throughout the state and ensuring the legal, political, and logistical battle about TikTok’s most popular platform for social networking‘s access and use.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Gianforte declared that the law was an attempt to “protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.” The critics and security experts argue that the app’s blocklisting violates citizens’ rights to freedom of speech and does nothing to protect people’s personal information.

“This unconstitutional ban undermines the free speech and association of Montana TikTok users and intrudes on TikTok’s interest in disseminating its users’ videos,” the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation stated in an announcement published on Twitter and calling the new law as a “blatant violation of the First Amendment.”

[Related: Reasons why some US lawmakers are seeking to stop TikTok. ]

Based on The EFF and other advocacy organizations, Montana’s TikTok ban doesn’t protect residents from corporations or bad actors that can nevertheless collect and later monetize private information. Instead, the advocates reaffirmed their calls to legislators to pass comprehensive privacy laws for data similar to the EU’s General Data Protection RegulationsSimilar legislation was passed in states such as California, Colorado, and Utah However; the legislation continues to stagnate at the federal level.

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“We hope to reassure Montanans that they will continue to use TikTok to express their opinions and earn a living, as well as connect with others as we continue fighting for those rights for our customers within as well as outside Montana, “TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter stated on Wednesday.

The new law in Montana primarily focuses on TikTok’s access through app stores offered by technology providers such as Apple and Google that are instructed to block all downloads on the social media platform when the ban takes effect in 2024. Montanans aren’t subject to the $10,000 daily fine when using TikTok. Instead, the penalty is aimed at businesses like Google, Apple, and TikTok’s proprietor, ByteDance.

[Related: The most reliable VPNs for 2023. ]

There is no legal or straightforward way to compel Montanans to uninstall the application if it’s already downloaded on their smartphones. Also, proxy services like VPNs can circumvent the ban. According to The Guardian reported this week, allowing Montana to impose any prohibition across VPNs is virtually impossible without the state adopting the censorship methods used by countries like China.

“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature have trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small business in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” Keegan Medrano who is policy director for the ACLU of Montana, released an official statement. “We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points.”

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