Montana lawmakers banned Tik Tok late Friday, demanding that tech companies prevent it from being downloaded in the state. Welcome the new poster child for stupid, ill-considered, posturing laws that will only create further problems should any real effort be made to enforce them.
The bill, SB 419, makes it illegal for app stores to give users the option to download the app and also illegal for the company to operate within the state. The bill does not, however, make it illegal for people who already have TikTok to use the app. A previous version of the bill sought to force internet providers to block TikTok, but that language was later removed. The bill is now headed to Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, who is expected to sign it. He previously banned TikTok on government devices in Montana. Other states have enacted similar executive orders banning the app on government-owned devices and networks.
A trade group counting Apple, Google and Amazon among its members told Montana lawmakers that app stores don't geofence apps on a state-by-state basis, and that the Apple App Store and Google Play Store could thereby not comply with the law. They were told this to their faces. Perhaps you want big tech brought to heel. Montana is about to try and do it with silly string.
Tik Tok being Chinese-owned adds national security fears to the privacy, surveillance, and dangerous memes cited by lawmakers. Commentators often say "ah, they don't care when it's American companies!", but broader censorship demands are afoot and will be applied to U.S. platforms as soon as lawmakers feel they can make it happen.