Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill that bans TikTok in the state. The bill will levy steep fines on any platform offering a download of the Chinese-owned social media app which is extremely popular for everyone from teens to those in their 5os and 60s.
“The Montana bill that the governor signed argues for a ban based on concerns for national security, privacy concerns regarding American data, and the assertion that TikTok poses a threat to public health. Those three together could make a compelling case in the courts,” said Mike Horning, an associate professor of multimedia journalism at Virginia Tech’s School of Communication. “The legal test will be whether the government can demonstrate enough evidence to show that all three concerns are compelling enough to override any First Amendment issues.”
Horning’s research examines how communication technologies impact social attitudes and behaviors, with a current focus on the impact of “fake news” and misinformation on our democratic processes.
Civil rights groups are expected to challenge the ban citing First Amendment grounds.
“Generally, the government cannot ban protected forms of speech,” said Horning. “The ban could also have an economic impact on individuals who use the platform for business purposes, contributing to make this move unpopular with the public. At the same time, the government has been successful at banning some communication technologies in the past with the argument that the technology posed a national security threat.”
Some Americans spend hours on the social media platform every day. The question remains as to if its possible to stop Americans from using TikTok.
“It might be, over time. Apps often need updating, thus limiting access through the Apple and Google stores could eventually make the apps on current phones unusable,” said Horning. “At the same time, people can be creative in finding workarounds if they feel that app is important enough to use on a daily basis.”