As Newsweek reports, the legislation signed by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte prohibits new downloads of the TikTok app by imposing fines on app stores or the app maker itself. The first-ever total ban on the app by a state government is set to go into effect on January 1.
Cybersecurity industry sources told the newsmagazine that users could easily get around the ban by disguising their device’s location. Another cybersecurity source, who called the ban essentially “saber-rattling,” added that the precedent of a state-level ban could have federal implications: “It just takes a number of dominos to fall, and you’ll have a de facto ban.”
Other than a $10,000 daily fine, the companies involved lack incentives to follow the law, cybersecurity experts told the Associated Press. David Choffnes of Northeastern University’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute noted that efforts to block users could accidentally affect people outside of Montana.
Doug Jacobson, a computer engineering professor at Iowa State University, writes in The Conversation that a theoretical nationwide TikTok ban would also be tremendously difficult to implement. Jacobson concludes that at this point, perhaps the most urgent priority is for families to talk with younger people about the mental-health risks from social media platforms like TikTok.
The federal government previously banned TikTok on work-provided phones, and many state and foreign governments have done the same. Supporters of the Montana law, along with federal intelligence officials and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, have warned that the app might threaten national security through the potential for data-harvesting or misinformation.
TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, operates under Chinese law, which requires companies to cooperate with government intelligence services. The company has claimed that if asked to give up data, it would not do so.
As CNBC reports, TikTok has filed a lawsuit trying to reverse Montana’s ban, arguing that the prohibition is unconstitutional. Five TikTok users made similar contentions in a separate lawsuit challenging the law. As Politico reports, TikTok CEO Shou Chew has vowed to “prevail” against the ban.