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The first state to ban TikTok is Montana

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Helena, Montana — Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 419 into law on Wednesday, becoming Montana the first state to enact legislation prohibiting Tiktok from operating within its boundaries. On January 1st, 2024, the prohibition will come into force.

Gianforte claimed in a news release that he signed the legislation to “protect Montanans’ sensitive data” from being collected by China.

“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 said. “Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok was previously forbidden on government-owned devices by the federal government and state organizations in Montana. Additionally, SB 419 applies to personal devices and states that “Tiktok may not operate within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana.” Additionally, the law forbids software developers like Apple and Google from making TikTok available for download.

The Montana Department of Justice will have the authority to pay app retailers or ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, $10,000 for each distinct offense and $10,000 for each day that a violation persists once the law is in force.

There are no repercussions for TikTok users under the law; it solely affects how the program is distributed.

SB 419 was approved by the Montana Senate 30-20 on March 2 and the Montana House 54-43 on April 14. Despite opposition from both parties, the law was able to pass both chambers.

Supporters said that the restriction is necessary because TikTok is controlled by a Chinese corporation and gathers a lot of user data. Sen. Shelley Vance, R-Belgrade, the lead sponsor of the legislation, stated at a meeting of the Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee on February 27 that there is serious worry that data is being exploited against American businesses and interests.

“After years of investigative reporting we now know this to be true, TicTok endangers the safety of Montanans and Americans at large,” said Vance. “We know that beyond a doubt that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is operating as a surveillance arm of the Chinese Communist Party and gathers information about Americans against their will.”

TikTok has refuted the allegation, and some Montana companies have said that if the app were to be banned, an important outlet for advertising would be lost.

“Small businesses like me, I don’t just sell to Montanans, I sell everywhere,” Caroline Nelson, owner of Little Creek Lamb and Beef, told MTN’s Kristin Merkel in March. “So if I can’t market on TikTok or on any social platform, it puts Montanans at a unique disadvantage compared to other small businesses in other states.”

Due to TikTok’s apparent indication that a legal challenge is on the horizon, it is likely that SB 419 will be contested.

“The bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts,” said TikTok on Twitter in April. “We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach.”

 

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