Montana legislature passes TikTok ban

The Montana House of Representatives just passed a ban on TikTok, meaning the app will become illegal if Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signs the bill, which had already passed in the Montana State Senate. Past actions by Gianforte, such as his memo(Opens in a new tab) prohibiting use of the app on state equipment, suggest that the bill will in fact become state law.

This is not yet another ban preventing government workers from using TikTok. The bill(Opens in a new tab) has at least some teeth, to say the least. It at least forbids (though it appears not to penalize) the use of TikTok by individuals statewide, prohibits app stores from selling TikTok in Montana, and lays out penalties for app sellers.This is far and away the most far-reaching and complete ban that has been passed anywhere in the U.S. since President Trump’s unsuccessful ban back in 2020.

The bill would keep TikTok out of Montana mainly by fining app stores $10,000 per violation per day if the app is ever downloaded in Montana. The bill forbids “the operation of tiktok by the company or users,” but also notes that its penalties, “do not apply to users of tiktok.” So to be clear, the $10,000 fines only go to app stores, not TikTok users.

In either case, under this new law, it would have been legally impermissible for the person who captured the following footage of a mountain goat in Glacier National Park to download TikTok and post it for all to see:

In a statement provided to CNN(Opens in a new tab), TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter claimed that those who have pushed this Montana bill “have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices,” and added that “the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts.”

The ACLU of Montana already signaled its opposition to the bill(Opens in a new tab) in the day’s before its passage, so TikTok may well be right that this will be decided in the courts.

As for TikTok’s claim that Montana doesn’t have a “feasible plan” for putting the bill into effect? That’s plausible as well, given that it’s not clear exactly how the law enforcement authorities(Opens in a new tab) of this sparsely populated state with just over 1 million inhabitants will go about finding perpetrators of this entirely new state cybercrime.