Montana's Republican-led House approved a bill banning TikTok in the state last Friday, making it the first U.S. state to ban the popular social media app. On Friday afternoon, the Montana House of Representatives voted in favor of SB 419 by a margin of 54-43. The state Senate had already approved the bill in March. The only thing left to make it law is the signature of Governor Greg Gianforte, who is known for body-slamming a journalist. If he signs the bill, it will take effect in January 2024. However, the bill will become invalid if Congress passes a national TikTok ban.
A violation of the law by TikTok or an app store could lead to penalties of up to $10,000 a day for the duration of the violation. The fine itself is not what casts a shadow on the platform, but rather Montana's approval of the nation's first TikTok ban may have just paved the way for Republican legislators across the country to propose their own identical bills. In such a scenario, TikTok may have no choice but to agree to spinoff its US business as the Biden Administration favors.
As a result of Friday's vote, TikTok criticized the bill from both a practical and First Amendment standpoint.
“The bill's champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill's constitutionality will be decided by the courts,”
- TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter outlines in a statement on Twitter.
“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.”
In an open letter to the Montana House of Representatives, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other organizations dedicated to civil liberties and free speech declared that passing the legislation would violate the First Amendment and violate the constitutional right of Montanans to freely express themselves.
“The government cannot impose a total ban on a communications platform like TikTok unless it is necessary to prevent extremely serious, immediate harm to national security. But there's no public evidence of harm that would meet the high bar set by the U.S. and Montana Constitutions,”
- comments the ACLU.
It is yet to be determined how TikTok will fare in the USA, but it is clear that the authorities have not been convinced of the company's innocence so far.