Governor Greg Gianforte of Montana has officially signed a bill on Wednesday, effectively banning the popular social media application TikTok within the state.
In a move that has garnered significant attention, Montana Governor Gianforte has reportedly signed a bill banning TikTok in the state, citing concerns over the protection of personal data from the Chinese Communist Party. This action marks the first state-level ban on the popular social media application and reflects the growing unease among lawmakers regarding the app’s security implications. However, the law is expected to face legal challenges, raising questions about its ultimate enforceability.
The TikTok Ban:
Scheduled to take effect in January, the bill specifically singles out TikTok, prohibiting its operation within Montana’s borders. Violators, including app stores hosting the platform, may face fines of up to $10,000 per day. Montana’s House of Representatives previously passed the bill, known as SB419, with a vote of 54-43, leading to its eventual signing by Governor Gianforte.
In response to the ban, TikTok released a statement expressing its commitment to defending the rights of its users in Montana. The company argued that the bill infringes upon First Amendment rights, as TikTok provides a platform for hundreds of thousands of Montanans to express themselves, earn a living, and find community. TikTok aims to reassure its users that they can continue to utilize the app while actively advocating for their rights both within and outside of Montana.
Security Concerns and Ownership:
TikTok’s ties to China have long been a subject of controversy and scrutiny. As a subsidiary of ByteDance, a China-based company, concerns have been raised regarding the potential access to US user data by the Chinese government. However, it is important to note that no evidence has emerged thus far to substantiate claims that personal information of US-based TikTok users has been accessed by the Chinese government for spying purposes.
Criticism and Legal Challenges:
NetChoice, a technology trade group that includes TikTok as a member, has deemed the Montana bill unconstitutional. They argue that the government cannot impede citizens’ access to constitutionally protected speech, whether it is through a website, app, or other mediums. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also criticized the ban, asserting that it infringes upon the free speech rights of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who rely on the app for self-expression, information gathering, and running their small businesses.
Separate Executive Order:
In addition to signing the TikTok ban bill, Governor Gianforte issued a separate executive order prohibiting the use of social media applications “tied to foreign adversaries” on government devices. This order includes ByteDance-owned CapCut and Lemon8, as well as Telegram Messenger, which was created while its founder resided in Russia but is now based in Dubai.
Governor Gianforte’s decision to sign the bill banning TikTok in Montana has sparked controversy and legal debates. While security concerns surrounding the app’s ownership persist, critics argue that the ban encroaches on individuals’ First Amendment rights. As the state prepares to implement the ban in January, it remains to be seen how this issue will unfold and whether other states will follow suit in taking similar actions against TikTok.