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Montanna becomes the first state to impose ban on TikTok completely, it is the first ban of its kind in the United States.

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TikTok ban in Montanna

The law will take effect in January 2024 and demands mobile app stores to make the app unavailable for Montana residents.

Greg Gianforte, the governor of Montana, just approved SB 419, new legislation that outlaws TikTok, a popular social media network, in the state. With this ground-breaking action, Montana will be the first state in the US to impose such a prohibition. As it addresses potential concerns related to the Chinese Communist Party, the bill’s main goal is to protect the personal information of Montanans.

Governor Gianforte explained the ban’s justification on Twitter. He stressed the significance of safeguarding Montanans from any dangers that could result from TikTok’s operations within the state’s territorial boundaries. Montana wants to protect its citizens’ privacy and security by enforcing this ban.

TikTok representative Brooke Oberwetter expressed reservations about the legislation on Twitter. Oberwetter suggested that the choice made by Governor Gianforte would potentially violate the First Amendment rights of Montanans. They emphasised the fact that hundreds of thousands of people use TikTok as an empowering tool that allows them to express themselves freely, seek their livelihoods, and build community. Oberwetter reminded Montanans that TikTok is still committed to upholding users’ rights both inside and outside of the state’s borders.

What does the TikTok ban in Montana mean?

SB 419 is a fairly straightforward bill. Specifically, it states that “TikTok may not operate within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana.” Additionally, it states that app stores for mobile devices might not provide “the option to download the TikTok mobile application.” An earlier clause that would have prohibited internet service providers from enabling access to the app didn’t make it into the final wording.

Users of TikTok are exempt from penalties, according to the law. However, owners of app stores and TikTok itself may be subject to fines of $10,000 per violation and per day, with a violation occurring “each time a user accesses TikTok, is offered the ability to access TikTok, or is offered the ability to download TikTok,” according to the definition of an individual violation.

There is some ambiguity in this. For example, the measure doesn’t specify whether allowing users to use TikTok’s crude web interface counts as “operating” within Montana. The measure only fines app shops for “the option to download,” but it makes no mention of who is responsible for ongoing upgrades to apps that have already been downloaded. (They should probably be prohibited as well, but Apple and Google would try to refute that. The ban would place an unprecedented cap on American internet users. However, it won’t take effect straight away. By default, the law takes effect on January 1st, 2024. Additionally, there is a key flaw: if TikTok breaks relations with Chinese parent company ByteDance, as long as its new owner is not based in a “foreign adversary” country, the agreement is automatically nullified.

Is the Montana ban legal?

As there has never been a prior instance of a similar prohibition in the law, the validity of the Montana ban on TikTok is still in question. It will, however, probably encounter early difficulties. TikTok has declared its determination to fight against the ban and criticised it as a case of government overreach. The bill has been deemed unconstitutional by NetChoice, an internet trade lobby that represents significant businesses like Meta, Twitter, and Google. NetChoice has a history of fighting states over such online speech regulations. By limiting Americans’ access to transmit and receive First Amendment-protected expression online, NetChoice claims that the prohibition is unconstitutional.

The Knight First Amendment Institute executive director Jameel Jaffer has presented the First Amendment case against TikTok restrictions, highlighting the requirement for a significant burden of proof on the part of the government. Former President Donald Trump’s executive orders to ban WeChat and TikTok had previously been overturned by certain U.S. judges, who did so on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to justify such restrictions on users’ freedom of speech. There was no definitive decision because President Joe Biden later revoked these executive actions. In court, Chinese applications have therefore done better than the politicians who sought to outlaw them.

Is TikTok being prohibited for a good reason?

 Although there has been much discussion about this issue, nobody is certain of the resolution. TikTok has been banned due to concerns that the software illegally collects large amounts of user data and shares it with the Chinese authorities. However, there is insufficient proof to prove these claims, therefore reporters, intelligence personnel, or whistleblowers must provide further details.

TikTok has a bad reputation

Some others argue for a ban based on TikTok’s purported promotion of harmful content, particularly targeting minors, in addition to the data privacy concern. For instance, the Montana bill highlights many TikTok issues that have been well-known over time. While some of these challenges have caused harm in the real world, many have attracted attention more as a result of warnings from outside sources than from repeated attempts to take part in them. It’s important to note that TikTok is not the only platform that promotes unsafe behaviour, and Facebook and YouTube are not being forcibly shut down. One of the fundamental tenets of the First Amendment is the protection of free expression, even when it contains offensive or even harmful material.

These TikTok challenges include things like: throwing things at moving cars, taking too much medication, setting a mirror on fire and trying to put it out with body parts, rendering someone unconscious by depriving them of oxygen, cooking chicken in NyQuil, pouring hot wax on one’s face, tripping people to cause injuries, sticking metal objects into electrical outlets, driving recklessly, smearing faeces on toddlers, licking doorknobs, and toilet sea.

Now, some of these challenges are said to have had negative effects in the real world, while others achieved notoriety more as a result of well-intentioned outsiders warning people about them than because people tried them. For instance, the joke about “cooking chicken in NyQuil” became viral but didn’t start to gain popularity until the Food and Drug Administration boosted it with an advisory. Furthermore, TikTok is by no means the only platform where users encourage one another to act foolishly online. And the fact that the First Amendment protects speech that you find offensive or dangerous explains why Montanan officials aren’t banning YouTube or Facebook.

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