Montana Governor Greg Gianforte just signed into law the nation’s strongest restrictions on Chinese-owned social media app TikTok.
TikTok has faced mounting pressure in the U.S. from Congress and state legislatures alike in recent months, but Montana’s actions escalate those threats considerably, even if the issue of enforcement remains an open question.
“Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” Gianforte said.
In a statement, Gianforte claimed that it is “well documented” that TikTok shares its data with the Chinese government — a claim that is not substantiated by public information about the app and how it operates.
While there is no evidence that TikTok or its parent company ByteDance have ever shared the app’s information with the Chinese government, TikTok has admitted to an incident in which employees spied on journalists’ locations using app data — a scandal that’s often cited in conversations around the app and privacy concerns.
Lawmakers in Montana unveiled the TikTok ban bill earlier this year, kicking off a firestorm of debate around the ban and other proposals to limit the app’s use in the U.S. While restrictions on the use of TikTok on government devices and campus networks are already commonplace, Montana’s ban is designed to block app stores from distributing the app to any users within the state.
Whether that would even be feasible remains to be seen. Google and Apple are likely to push back on state-level laws that limit where apps can be downloaded within the U.S. lest they face the logistical nightmare of more state legislatures issuing their own bans against TikTok or other apps. TikTok’s users are likely to push back too, and the company has already been leveraging its enthusiastic user base to oppose the Montana law.
There are a ton of unknowns about how this will all play out, but the one certainty is that Montana’s newest law is sure to face some strong challenges in court in the coming months. We’ll be following along to see how it all goes down.