Montana poised to become first state with outright TikTok ban

Montana is poised to become the first state in the country to entirely ban TikTok after its Republican-controlled legislature passed a ban, sending it to the governor’s desk. 

The Montana House voted 54-43 in favor of the legislation on Friday in response to concerns about the Chinese government potentially being able to use the app to conduct spying in the United States.

The bill, if Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signs it, would go significantly further than bills other states have proposed — which have focused primarily on banning the app from state-owned devices only.

Gianforte did not say on Friday if he would sign it, but a statement from a spokesperson for his office said he would “carefully consider” all legislation that the legislature sends to him. He banned TikTok on state-owned devices last year, arguing that it poses a “significant risk” to sensitive state data. 

The bill cites that TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, and that China is an adversary of the U.S. and that TikTok gathers “significant data” on its users. 

U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have expressed concerns that the Chinese Communist Party could potentially have access to data from TikTok because of its ownership by a Chinese company. 

TikTok has maintained that it is independent of China and not subject to any requests for data from the Chinese government. It has also said it has taken steps to protect U.S. user data. 

The Montana legislation establishes a fine of $10,000 per violation for entities that break the law and would fine them an additional $10,000 for each day the violation continues — but the penalties will not concern users of the app. 

Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, said the company would mount a legal challenge to the bill if it is signed. She said TikTok will “continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach.” 

The ban would be scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. But it also includes a clause that would make it void if TikTok is sold to a company that is not based in a country considered to be an adversary of the U.S. 

The Biden administration threatened to ban TikTok nationally last month if ByteDance did not sell its stake in TikTok. 

Experts have said the administration could force ByteDance to sell TikTok if national security considerations warranted it, but the situation would be complicated. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags ByteDance China Greg Gianforte Montana National security TikTok TikTok ban

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