Montana has recently passed a groundbreaking law that prohibits the use of the Chinese-owned media powerhouse TikTok on personal devices. Governor Greg Gianforte signed the ban, which is slated to take effect on January 1st.
The video-sharing platform has faced global scrutiny due to concerns over data security and potential ties to the Chinese government. TikTok argues that this ban encroaches upon the First Amendment rights of Montana residents.
Governor Gianforte, a member of the Republican party, emphasized that implementing a broader ban would help protect Montanans from surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok responded to the ban by reassuring its hundreds of thousands of users in Montana that they can still utilize the platform for self-expression, livelihood, and community-building, as the company continues to advocate for user rights both within and beyond the state.
It is anticipated that TikTok will challenge the legislation through legal means.
The recent legislation banning TikTok on personal devices was passed by Montana lawmakers last month, with 54 votes in favor and 43 against. While the law makes it illegal for app stores to offer TikTok, individuals who already have the app will not be restricted from using it.
Notably, Montana had already prohibited the use of TikTok on government devices in December of last year.
With 150 million American users, TikTok has experienced significant growth in recent years, primarily among teenagers and individuals in their twenties. Nevertheless, concerns about TikTok’s potential national security risks have been raised across the political spectrum in the United States.
As a Chinese company, TikTok is owned by ByteDance. In March, TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, faced questioning from a congressional committee regarding potential Chinese government access to user data and influence over the app’s content. Chew denied any spying on Americans while acknowledging that TikTok employees had used journalist accounts for information gathering.
Earlier in March, the U.S. government declared that ByteDance must sell TikTok or face a potential ban in the country.
Although the penalties for violating the ban are applicable to companies rather than individual users, firms found in violation could face fines of up to $10,000 (£8,012), enforced by Montana’s Department of Justice. This means that technology giants like Apple and Google could be penalized if they allow TikTok to be downloaded from their app stores in Montana.
ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has repeatedly refuted claims that it is controlled by the Chinese government.