Montana Becomes First State to Officially Ban TikTok
Montana became the first state to officially ban the popular social media platform TikTok.
On Wednesday, May 17, the state's governor, Greg Gianforte, signed bill SB 419 into law. The legislation not only restricts downloads of the app by making it illegal for app stores to give Montana-based users the option to download TikTok but also illegal for the company to operate within the state.
The new law, which will reportedly go into effect in January 2024, does not affect those who have already downloaded the app, as according to previous reports, an older version of the bill sought to do such by forcing internet providers to block the app, but such language has since been removed.
Each violation–which is described as each time a user is offered the ability to download the app–could carry a $10,000 penalty. Enforcement would be handled by the Montana Department of Justice unless "TikTok is acquired by or sold to a company that is not incorporated in any other country designated as a foreign adversary," then the ban is null and void.
Experts have already predicted that the bill, which was passed back in April, will likely face some challenges, as those opposed to it believe SB 419 encroaches on free speech and called it "impossible to enforce."
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter called the bill "unlawful" in a statement shared with Today.com, saying the app is a platform that "empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state."
"We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana," Oberwetter said.
Gianforte, however, doubled down on his decision to sign the legislation, tweeting out a statement yesterday supporting the motion, calling it "the most decisive action of any state."
To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) May 17, 2023
"The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented," Gianforte claimed.
How TikTok operates regarding user data has been a hot topic for quite some time, with Congress even inviting its CEO Shou Zi Chew to testify on behalf of the company. During the congressional hearing a few weeks ago, Chew said that the way TikTok accesses user data is no different from any other social media app.
In fact, Chew explained that for more than two years, TikTok has been "building what amounts to a firewall to seal off protected U.S. user data from unauthorized foreign access," noting that the video-sharing app has accumulated over 150 million active users in the U.S.
"The bottom line is this: American data stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel," Chew said.
Despite the TikTok CEO's best efforts, it appears he did little to soothe lawmakers, as limited bans for federally-issued and government-owned devices as well as networks–which includes a number of colleges–have popped up in several states.
Last year, the FCC commissioner called the app a "security threat" and demanded it be blocked from Google and Apple Stores nationwide. While that didn't happen, President Joe Biden did enforce regulations that prohibits the use of the app on devices owned by federal agencies, including electronics issued to the some 4 million people employed by the federal government.
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