Skip to main content

Everything You Need To Know About Montana’s TikTok Ban

TikTok logo with a "no" symbol

Montana could become the first state to ban TikTok after a bill proposing such a ban was recently passed in the state’s House of Representatives. Discussion of TikTok’s potential banning in the U.S. as a whole has become a major political issue as of late. On March 7, Senate Bill 686, the “Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology” Act, was introduced to Congress. Also known as the Restrict Act, the proposed bill is reminiscent of the Patriot Act and would potentially enforce a nationwide ban on TikTok by allowing lawmakers to ban any app from any country they deem a threat to the U.S., and allow the government to monitor citizens’ internet usage.

The bill has sparked opposition and concerns about its potential infringement on First Amendment rights after it was first introduced by Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner. However, Montana isn’t waiting to see if the proposed bill will be passed in the Senate and has already introduced its own legislation to enact a statewide ban on TikTok. While the Montana bill is specifically focused on banning TikTok, it echoes many of the sentiments of Senate Bill 686, and has raised concerns about how it would be enforced as well as the grounds on which it would likely be challenged in court.

Is TikTok banned in Montana?

The bill seeking to ban TikTok in Montana, SB 419, was introduced to the GOP-controlled Montana Senate by Republican state Senator Shelley Vance. It passed in the Senate on a 30-20 vote and advanced to the Montana House of Representatives. On April 14, the House followed the Senate’s lead and passed the bill on a preliminary vote of 60-39. As a result, it is expected to pass the House’s final vote, where it will advance to Montana Governor Greg Gianforte to be officially signed into law. While TikTok is not officially banned in Montana yet, the bill does seem to have a strong chance of being passed.

Even if it is passed, the ban won’t be instituted until January 1, 2024. Additionally, there’s a strong likelihood it will be challenged or found to be unfeasible long before that date. TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter released a statement regarding the bill:

“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. 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.”

If passed, the bill would likely spark legal action from TikTok, and a court case could even work its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill is also likely to face stark opposition from Montana residents who may be TikTok creators or who utilize the platform to promote their businesses. However, even bigger than the anticipated pushback from TikTok and opponents of the bill is the fact that Montana has no way to enforce this law. The bill outlines that it will fine individuals or companies up to $10,000 for violating the law by illegally downloading the app or making the app available on app stores for Montana residents to download. As for how it will ensure that companies and individuals can’t provide or access TikTok, though, the bill only vaguely states, “The Department of Justice shall enforce the provisions of this section.”

Making TikTok illegal in just one state makes enforcing the bill exceedingly difficult, as users could disguise their locations or a resident of Montana could access the app outside of the state. The bill also states that if TikTok is sold to another company outside of China, then the ban would no longer be effective. Ultimately, TikTok is not legally banned in Montana, and the pushback it has received for wanting to censor Montanans’ internet usage, as well as the pressing questions of how such a ban will be enforced, don’t bode well for the bill actually becoming a reality. If, by some chance, the bill does become law, Montana will make history as the first state to ban TikTok on all devices.

Why did Montana ban TikTok?

SB 419 highlights two major reasons for blocking TikTok in Montana. The first is privacy and security concerns for Montana residents given TikTok’s ownership by China, while the second is the allegation that TikTok allows—and even promotes—harmful and dangerous content to circulate on its platform. As said above, the former concern largely echoes those of Senate Bill 686 in terms of TikTok’s ownership and posits that China is using TikTok to gather private user information on Americans. It alleges that the People’s Republic of China can infringe on Montanans’ right to privacy by demanding that ByteDance (TikTok’s ownership company) share personal user information.

Proponents of Bills 419 and 686 point to China’s National Intelligence Law for support. The 2017 bill obligates citizens and organizations to assist Chinese intelligence agencies to protect national security. As a result, it can require businesses to hand over information, such as user data, if requested and to conceal the act. However, there is no actual evidence that China ever has tried to access TikTok user information. TikTok executives have denied China ever requesting such information and claim they would refuse if officials ever did so. CEO Shou Zi has even proposed “Project Texas” to utilize Texas-based company Oracle to allow U.S. data to be managed by U.S. employees.

However, Montana also cites TikTok’s “promotion” of dangerous challenges and content as another reason for its proposed ban. The bill points to such trends as the NyQuil Chicken challenge, the blackout challenge, and the Benadryl challenge as evidence of TikTok’s failure to “remove … dangerous content that directs minors to engage in dangerous activities.” Hence, even if TikTok does change ownership or fulfills Project Texas, there’s a chance that calls and attempts to ban TikTok will continue under the argument that it is unsafe for minors to use.

Even more extreme bills have arisen from various states, such as Texas’s attempt to block social media for everyone under 18 due to the danger it allegedly poses to minors. It can’t be denied that TikTok and social media as a whole can negatively impact young users, but censorship doesn’t seem like the most feasible route to take to combat such issues.

(featured image: TikTok)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.