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Montana isn't banning TikTok: It's putting on a show and you won't be affected

Yes, Montana is trying to knock TikTok out at the knees, but it is nowhere near a true ban.

Published onMay 18, 2023

Tiktok stock photo on smartphone
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Reports are floating around of a TikTok ban happening in the state of Montana.
  • However, what Montana is doing is not technically a ban. It’s an attempt to knock TikTok out at the knees mixed with a bit of political grandstanding.
  • The law will almost certainly face legal challenges.

Throughout this morning, we’ve seen numerous reports of Montana banning TikTok. Even The New York Times ran an article titled “Montana governor signs total ban of TikTok in the state.” Wow, that sounds serious.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you feel about TikTok), there is no TikTok ban happening in Montana, at least not technically. What is happening is a big attack on TikTok, yes, but it is not banning the app on a user level, and the law will almost certainly be overturned.

First, the facts. Per Reuters, Montana has made it a law that TikTok cannot appear on app store searches starting on January 1, 2024. This law, signed by Montana Governor Greg Gianforte Wednesday morning, will make it illegal for Google and Apple to offer the TikTok app in Montana through the Play Store and App Store, respectively, starting next year.

However, the law says nothing about you actually using the app. So, if you still have the TikTok app on your phone after January 1, 2024, that’s fine. And, for Android users, sideloading the app will still be legal as well. People who use iPhones might have significant trouble sideloading an app, but you could also just use a VPN to change your perceived location to a different state or country, download the app from the App Store, and then turn off the VPN.

In other words, if you currently use TikTok in Montana, you don’t need to worry about this “TikTok ban.” If you don’t and decide you’d like to in 2024, it will be incredibly easy to get TikTok without breaking the law. And, since we have many months before this law takes effect, you might not even need to worry about anything because this law will almost certainly face enormous legal challenges.

‘TikTok ban’ in Montana not long for this world

In a tweet, Governor Gianforte, a Republican, said the bill will further “our shared priority to protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.” This tells you all you need to know about why Gianforte signed this law. Gianforte is up for re-election in 2024, and this attempt to block TikTok from the state is essentially political grandstanding for his political base.

As with most examples of political theatre, this law is almost certainly not going to be around for long. First, it blatantly violates the idea that the government cannot infringe upon free speech. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on Wednesday that the legislation “flouts the First Amendment.” Here’s more from the ACLU:

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 US and Montana Constitutions, and a total ban would not be the only option for addressing such harm if it did exist.

In other words, expect a litany of lawyers descending upon Montana to attack this law. Even if those attacks aren’t successful, the US Supreme Court would almost certainly declare this law unconstitutional eventually.

So if you hear “TikTok ban in Montana” on the internet today, know that you have nothing to worry about. TikTok might be in hot water in the United States, but this Montana law is a bit of fluff.

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