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Montana passes historic TikTok ban

TikTok app
Montana is prohibiting the TikTok app (Photo via Shutterstock).

One U.S. state has taken the step of entirely banning the use of TikTok within its borders.

On Wednesday, May 17, 2023, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed legislation that will make Montana the first state in the U.S. to completely ban any mobile app store from providing TikTok to any users in the state. The ban, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2024, focuses on app providers rather than app users, who do not face any penalty or punishment under its terms.

However, the law would fine both TikTok and any app store (such as Google or Apple) $10,000 per individual violation, with an additional fine of $10,000 per day if the violation continues. See full text of the legislation here.  

The U.S. federal government, as well as 30 U.S. states (including Montana), have already banned TikTok from any governmental devices or systems, due to concerns sensitive user data could be furnished to the Chinese government. The Biden administration has been consistently continuing to express serious regulatory concerns, which began under the Trump administration.

Citing possible ByteDance connections to the Chinese Communist Party, the Trump administration had been actively attempting to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. unless it established a separate business with at least partial U.S. ownership. In December 2022, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok from operating in the United States.

Both TikTok and the Chinese government have publicly denied any security risks for U.S. users. However, TikTok may be taking a new look at creating a separate U.S. operation that would include Walmart and Oracle.

According to the New York Post, in response to reported demands from the Biden administration to ByteDance, the Chinese company which owns TikTok, to sell its shares in the popular short video platform or face a ban in the U.S., is privately exploring options to at least sell off its U.S. business.

Those options may include a deal that would shift partial ownership of TikTok’s U.S. business to Walmart and Oracle, which was initially supported by the Trump administration in 2020.

[Read more: Report: U.S. threatens TikTok ban unless Chinese owner divests]

According to CNBC, in a statement TikTok said Montana’s impending ban “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok” and that it would continue working to defend its users’ rights inside and outside of Montana.

TikTok has not directly commented on whether it will legally challenge the ban. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has publicly criticized the ban as unconstitutional and said it will challenge the legislation in court. Apple and Google have not yet publicly commented.


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