Can Montana really ban TikTok? Here’s what to know about its new law

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If you use TikTok and you’re wondering how Montana lawmakers plan to enforce this law, you’re not alone. There are a few theories as to why tech experts, social justice groups, and law scholars believe this law will not be able to move forward.

First, Montana lawmakers cannot prove that the Chinese government has access to or has misused US TikTok user data. In fact, a study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Internet Governance Project found that TikTok’s methods of data harvesting are almost identical to the methods used at Facebook.

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Without concrete proof that TikTok shares user data with the Chinese government, Montana’s law could be declared unconstitutional, Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, told CBS News.

Montana’s law will penalize Apple and Google should the companies continue to make TikTok available to download in Montana after January 1, 2024. But a spokesperson from TechNet, a trade group that considers Apple and Google as members, says it’s impossible to pull TikTok from one state and keep it available to the rest of the country.

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And how would Montana ensure Montanans don’t use a VPN to hide their IP geolocation to still access TikTok? The state can’t, according to Recon Analytics telecoms analyst Roger Entner.

Other experts say TikTok’s removal from app marketplaces on Montana citizens’ devices is a responsibility that legally and ethically rests on TikTok’s shoulders, not Apple’s or Google’s. 

Still, TikTok removing itself from Montana will be a technological feat, according to David Choffnes, the executive director of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute at Northeastern University.

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Choffnes says it will be difficult for TikTok to remove itself from Montana and not accidentally block a TikTok user in another state that uses the same cell provider-issued IP address.

So, Montana’s bill will be hard to enforce all around and will likely be an issue that is settled in front of judges.

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