Montana Governor Bans TikTok in the State

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill Wednesday banning TikTok from operating in the state. This is the most extreme app ban law in the nation and will almost certainly be challenged in court. The ban will go into effect on January 1st.

“Today, the state of Montana will take the toughest steps of any state to protect the personal data and sensitive personal information of Montana residents from being collected by the Chinese Communist Party,” Republican Gianforte said in a news release.

The Montana legislature introduced the bill in February, leading to months of debate. The proposal, which affects everyday users of the popular short-form video app, sharply spurs a nationwide move to ban TikTok on government devices based on concerns over TikTok’s ownership by Chinese company ByteDance. escalated to The fight over the bill provided a glimpse of what the U.S. could face nationally if lawmakers and the White House attempt to ban TikTok across the country, which has emerged in recent months.

TikTok, which has 7,000 employees in the US, has been fighting back in the state for months. It ran ads featuring Montana small businesses on TikTok and gave users a pre-composed email to contact Gianforte about their opposition to the bill.

The law bans mobile app stores like those run by Apple and Google from offering TikTok in the state. Industry groups funded by Apple and Google have said in recent months that the two companies cannot block access to TikTok in a single state.

“Governor Gianforte signed into law a bill that violates the rights of people in the First Amendment to the Montana Constitution by illegally banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people in the state.” TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Overwetter said in a statement. on wednesday. “We continue to work to protect our users’ rights both inside and outside of Montana so that Montana residents can continue to use our app,” she added.

Under the law, TikTok could be fined if it continued to operate in the state, and Apple and Google could be fined if they allowed people to download their apps.

Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment.

The battle in Montana comes amid heavy national scrutiny of TikTok, which boasts more than 150 million users in the United States. Lawmakers and intelligence officials have said that TikTok’s ownership of it could put its users’ sensitive data into the hands of the Chinese government, and that the Chinese government could use Chinese companies and citizens to gather information. It points to laws that allow confidential data requests.

They also expressed concern that the app could be used to spread propaganda as it is particularly popular with people in their teens and twenties. Congress pursued TikTok CEO Zhou Chu for nearly five hours during a March hearing that focused primarily on Chinese ownership of the app.

TikTok says it has never been asked to provide U.S. user data to the Chinese government, nor has it ever provided it. The company has proposed a detailed plan for operations in the United States to ease national security concerns and fears of misinformation, but the plan has not yet been approved by the Biden administration, and TikTok and its The future is up in the air.

Free speech groups were quick to respond to Montana’s ban. The American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that the bill “ignores the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

“Governments cannot outright ban communication platforms like TikTok unless it is necessary to prevent extremely serious and imminent damage to national security,” the group said in a statement. “However, there is no public evidence of harm that meets the high standards set by the U.S. and Montana constitutions, and where such harm exists, a blanket ban is not the only option to address it. .”

Montana’s bill would void the ban if TikTok was acquired or sold to a company not incorporated in a country “designated as a foreign enemy.”

David McCabe Contributed to the report.

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