Montana’s TikTok ban is a technological nightmare. Experts warn that enforcement will be incredibly difficult for authorities and incredibly easy to circumvent for almost anyone. But beyond that, it’s a move that undermines America’s history of promoting an open, democratic Internet.
The LawThe law, which goes into effect in early 2024, will both block TikTok from Montana’s mobile app stores and ban TikTok from operating in the state. It’s a move that raises numerous First Amendment concerns and may never materialize if legal challenges block it. But if it actually comes to that, experts say there will likely be a mess.
“Technically, even if it were national law, it would be difficult to get this to work,” says John Morris, director of US Internet policy and advocacy at the Internet Society, a nonprofit organization that advocates for a open internet uses. However, since people can use VPNs to change their browsing location, it’s even harder to ensure a local ban works. “National borders are not anchored in the internet.”
The new law is the first to come into effect after years of concern over TikTok as a national security risk in the US. This perceived threat looms because TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is Chinese-owned. TikTok has also become one of the most popular apps in the world 150 million Users in the US alone.
Montana law fines mobile app stores $10,000 for allowing users to download or use TikTok. TikTok could also be fined for operating in the state. The fines would not apply to people who download the app.
The US has historically championed an open internet and has criticized countries that censor online access. China succeeds in its mass censorship because of its Great Firewall – a system unlike anything in the US and which Montana could not build for itself. Other countries including Indonesia And Pakistan, banned TikTok and then lifted the bans. India’s TikTok ban, introduced in June 2020, is still in place. Montana, along with other states and the US federal government, has blocked TikTok from government devices, but geo-blocking from specific regions within the US would prove much more difficult.
An older version of Montana law would have forced internet service providers to block TikTok in the state. However, the ISPs said that was impossible and the requirement was removed. Mobile app providers such as Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment. And while Montana has since passed the law banning TikTok, how it intends to implement it remains to be seen.
Montana officials have suggested that technology that restricts online sports gambling, which remains illegal in more than a dozen U.S. states, could be used to force TikTok out of its borders. If someone reports a violation, officials would investigate it, and if a violation was proven, cease and desist letters would be sent to the companies, the state attorney general’s office said Associated Press.