On Wednesday, Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana approved a bill that prohibits the use of TikTok. This legislation is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024. TikTok, a video-sharing platform owned by a Chinese company, has been a focal point of privacy apprehensions, leading to a growing demand among lawmakers in Washington for a broader prohibition.
“To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” Gianforte wrote on Twitter.
Lawmakers in Montana’s House voted 54-43 to give last approval to the bill, known as SB419. Should Gianforte sign the bill, it would take effect in January. But the legislation could quickly face significant legal challenges.
The legislation specifically names TikTok as a target of the bill, and outlines potential penalties of $10,000 per violation per day. The penalties would also apply to any app store found to have violated the law. Individual users of TikTok, meanwhile, would not be penalized for accessing TikTok.
“The governor will carefully consider any bill the legislature sends to his desk”
said Brooke Stroyke, a spokesperson for Gianforte. In December, Gianforte banned TikTok from state government devices and the following month urged the Montana University System to follow suit, which it did.
What does the Montana Tiktok ban mean?
The state intends to impose a $10,000 penalty per day on companies such as Apple and Google if TikTok remains accessible through their app stores. Each time “a user accesses TikTok, is offered the ability to access TikTok, or is offered the ability to download TikTok” it is considered a violation, according to a copy of the law published on the state’s website. Users, however, will not be penalized.
If TikTok is sold to a company that is not based in “any country designated as a foreign adversary” by the US government, the Montana ban would essentially be void.
How has TikTok responded?
Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for the social media platform, expressed concern that the law violated individuals’ freedom of expression.
“We want to assure the people of Montana that they can continue using TikTok to freely express themselves, make a living, and find a sense of community while we work to protect the rights of our users both in and outside of Montana,” Oberwetter stated in a press release.
It was widely anticipated that TikTok would challenge the law in court, but Oberwetter did not confirm whether the company would file a lawsuit.
TikTok has previously stated that its operations are not influenced by Beijing.
Since 2020, US officials have attempted to restrict TikTok’s activities. Former President Donald Trump sought to ban the platform from operating in the country, but his order was blocked by federal courts. The US government has called for TikTok to be spun off from its Chinese owners, while TikTok has said that it can address the national security concerns by erecting a “firewall” around US user data, part of an initiative it calls Project Texas.
Everything you need to know on Tiktok Ban in the USA
The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation on TikTok on March 17, 2023, that included allegations that the company spied on American journalists. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to defend the application on March 24, 2023. His testimony touched on TikTok’s consumer privacy and data security policies, the platform’s mental health impact and security concerns about the platform’s parent company, ByteDance.
The United States wants to ban Tiktok for many severe reasons. The main and most important reason is national security. U.S. lawmakers are concerned that ByteDance may leak U.S. user data to the Chinese government if the Chinese government forced them to. TikTok releases a transparency report where it discloses formal legal requests for user data. The biannual information request report shows how many requests were made in each country. According to the latest report, requests for information by law enforcement reached an all-time high in the first half of 2022, with 4,054 total requests around the globe.