Montana Becomes First State in the U.S. to Ban TikTok

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In a groundbreaking move, Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana has signed a bill that effectively bans TikTok in the state, making it the first state in the United States to fully prohibit the popular social media app. The Republican governor’s decision is primarily motivated by concerns over foreign influence, as TikTok is owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance.

Governor Gianforte emphasized the well-documented risks associated with the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged use of TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect personal and sensitive information. By enacting this ban, Montana aims to protect its citizens’ private data and personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.

While there have been efforts in Congress to address the risks posed by TikTok and other foreign adversary apps, including a bipartisan bill in the Senate, momentum for a nationwide ban has waned recently. Some libertarian members like Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and progressive Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have voiced opposition to such a ban, contributing to the stagnation of these legislative efforts.

The ban in Montana is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2024, unless legal challenges arise. App stores that continue to offer TikTok to Montana’s 1.1 million residents risk facing penalties imposed by the Montana Department of Justice. The initial penalty for violations starts at $10,000 per offense, with an additional $10,000 imposed for each subsequent day that the violation persists.

TikTok has responded to the ban by arguing that it violates the First Amendment, and the company is currently assessing its legal options. A spokesperson for TikTok, Brooke Oberwetter, reassured Montanans that they can still use the platform to express themselves, earn a living, and find community. The company remains committed to defending the rights of its users both within and outside Montana.

Critics of the ban, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argue that it infringes upon the free speech rights of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use TikTok to express themselves, access information, and operate their small businesses. The ACLU of Montana’s policy director, Keegan Medrano, stated that Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature prioritized anti-Chinese sentiment over safeguarding First Amendment rights, and the organization firmly rejects any compromise on those fundamental rights.

The bill banning TikTok was passed by the Montana legislature in April. Governor Gianforte later proposed amendments to extend the ban to all social media platforms that transmit U.S. users’ data to foreign adversaries. However, the amendments were not considered before the legislative session concluded, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Additionally, Governor Gianforte issued a directive to the state’s Chief Information Officer on the same day, instructing a ban on social media apps from all foreign adversaries on government-issued devices and while connected to state internet networks. This directive encompasses other apps owned by ByteDance, such as CapCut and Lemon8, as well as Telegram messenger (founded in Russia), Temu (owned by China-based Pinduoduo), and WeChat (owned by China-based Tencent

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