In Montana you can purchase a gun without a background check, carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and can continue to legally possess a weapon even after committing a violent offense — but in order to protect the public, you can’t download TikTok.
“To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” tweeted Gov. Greg Gianforte on Tuesday after signing a bill that will ban the social media app in the state.
The ban, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, would require mobile app stores to block downloads of the application within the state, and bars TikTok from operating as a company within Montana. TikTok and companies that offer downloads of the app could be fined $10,000 for every day that it’s available.
The law will likely face a myriad of legal challenges, principally on grounds that it violates resident’s first amendment rights.
“Governor Gianforte has signed a bill that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.
“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,” they added.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted on Wednesday, “elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
In 2022 TikTok announced it would be migrating American user data to Oracle servers stored in the U.S. in an effort to assuage lawmakers’ concerns regarding the app. But their efforts have been largely unsuccessful in the face of Republican’s hawkishness regarding China. Montana’s ban represents a major escalation in GOP efforts to bar Americans from accessing TikTok, which is owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance. Before Montana’s ban, efforts to restrict access to TikTok had been limited to devices and institutions under direct government control.