Montana Lawmakers Voted 54-43 today to forbid app stores from offering TikTok for download and to bannot allow it to operate in the state.

The bill is likely to pass into law, making Montana the first state in the US to forbid the popular social media site. This could lead to a constitutional conflict and jeopardize online freedoms.

The bill, which will now be handed over to Greg Gianforte, the Republican governor of Montana, would not apply to anyone who already have TikTok installed on their devices. The decision was made in response to the US government’s vague claims made during the two presidential regimes that TikTok, which has 150 million US users, poses a threat to national security because its parent firm, ByteDance, is a Chinese corporation.

The new law, which would go into effect on January 1, 2024, is anticipated to be signed into law by Gianforte. He prohibited TikTok from Montana government devices in December, a move that other states have also made recently. Gianforte added in his announcement of the ban, “I also encourage Montanans to protect their personal data and stop using TikTok.”

Related: The Music Business Is Holding Its Breath As The Government Threatens To Shut Down TikTok

However, a statewide prohibition differs significantly from a government equipment embargo and broad promotion. It affects the speech and hearing rights of Montanans, which are guaranteed by the US First Amendment.

Austin Knudsen, Montana’s attorney general, said on Wednesday, “We’re under no illusions that this is not going to get contested. “I believe that the US Supreme Court will need to address this as the next important development in First Amendment law. And I believe that’s where this is most likely going.

TikTok immediately denounced the bill on First Amendment and logistical grounds following today’s vote.

Brooke Oberwetter, a representative for TikTok, stated in a statement that “the bill’s champions have admitted they have no practical plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts.” “We will keep fighting for Montanan TikTok users and creators whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are at risk due to this egregious government overreach,” the statement reads.

An earlier draft of the measure mandated that internet service providers in Montana ban access to TikTok, a task that ISP representatives claimed was not feasible. The Montana lawmakers was also informed by a trade group that represents Google and Apple, two businesses that operate mobile app shops, that it would be nearly hard to stop TikTok downloads in Montana.

Related: Where Will Marketers Go If TikTok Is banned?

The claims made by Montana attorney general Knudsen regarding a “next frontier in First Amendment jurisprudence” are overstated, according to Riana Pfefferkorn, a research fellow at the Stanford Internet Observatory, especially in light of the AG’s remarks from the most recent Times interview. In it, Knudsen made clear that his office was inspired to pursue a full TikTok ban as a result of parental complaints that TikTok posts included drug use, pornography, and suicide.

It’s obviously unconstitutional, claims Pfefferkorn. He acknowledged that the goal was to prevent people from hearing and uttering legal speech. It’s a simple case.

More generally, scholars have long cautioned that blocking TikTok violates the open internet’s democratic norms. When other countries impose platform restrictions, content filtering, and internet shutdowns on their citizens, the US has constantly denounced them. These oppressive digital strategies have become more prevalent recently all across the world. However, numerous US representatives and senators, both at the state and federal levels, have advocated for a ban on TikTok.

According to Joseph Lorenzo Hall, a prominent technologist with the Internet Society, a non-profit organization that advocates for an open internet, “it has very serious implications when ISPs, browser manufacturers, and tech companies are forced to develop technical methods to block access to networks and domains.” It allows for fragmentation, or what is known as the’splinternet.’ Platforms for communication are like a light switch in the dark. TikTok is used by marginalized people in ways other than merely “ha ha, let’s dance.”

Related: The CEO Of TikTok Will Testify At A Hearing On Data Privacy And Online Harm Reduction

Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March. The hearing mainly consisted of agitated, Footloose-style ruminations concerning children’s safety. Lawmakers seemed to constantly, if unwittingly, argue for comprehensive national privacy regulation in the US by raising concerns about TikTok that could be stated of any social media network.

Although the legality of Montana’s ban will be contested, the mere fact that it exists may inspire other states or even the federal government to consider similar measures. This could set off a domino effect that could have a significant negative effect on the right to free expression online both in the US and globally.

It is a frustrating irony, according to Stanford’s Pfefferkorn, “that American legislators’ idea for opposing China is to act more like China, home of the Great Firewall that censors its citizens’ free access to the flow of information.” “Banning a popular social media app, particularly on the basis of speculative worries, is directly contrary to the vision of a free and open internet that the US has long promoted abroad as part of our commitment to democracy,” the White House said.


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