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Montana Gov. y banned TikTok from operating in the state

Monday, May 22, 2023

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on Wednesday banned TikTok from operating in the state.

Citing concerns over intelligence gathering by "foreign adversaries," the Republican governor signed Senate Bill 419, making Montana the first US state to prohibit use of or access to the social network for everyone, not just on government-issued devices, effective Jan. 1, 2024.

The move comes one month after Montana legislators voted 54-43 to ban the short-form video app from operating in the state. In December, Gianforte also banned TikTok on state equipment and for state business in Montana.

"The Chinese Community Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented," Gianforte said. "Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans' private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Community Party."

According to the bill text, those who violate the law—in this case meaning TikTok itself and app stores that list it for download—could be fined $10,000 "each time that a user accesses TikTok, is offered the ability to access TikTok, or is offered the ability to download TikTok." They'll also face an additional $10,000 each day thereafter. (It does not address web-based TikTok access.)

The penalties do not apply to individual users who download TikTok onto their devices. Also exempt: law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, security research activities, or essential government uses permitted by the governor, the bill text says.

"Gov. Gianforte has signed a bill that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state," a TikTok spokesperson told PCMag. "We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana."

In April, as SB 419 made its way through the legislature, trade group TechNet, which counts Apple and Google among its members, said "it should be up to an app to determine where it can operate, not the app stores."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also argued at the time that SB 419 "would flout the First Amendment and...trample on Montanans’ constitutional right to freedom of speech."

"The government cannot impose a total ban on a communications platform like TikTok unless it is necessary to prevent extremely serious, immediate harm to national security," the ACLU said. "But there’s no public evidence of harm that would meet the high bar set by the US and Montana Constitutions, and a total ban would not be the only option for addressing such harm if it did exist."

In a December memo(Opens in a new window) to the state's chief information officer and executive agency directors, Gianforte argued that "foreign adversaries' collection and use of Montanans' personal information and data from social media applications infringe on Montanans' constitutionally guaranteed individual right to privacy."

Per an amendment submitted by the governor last month, the bill he signed also bans the government use of other social media apps based in foreign countries, including CapCut, Lemon8, Temu, and WeChat (all from Chinese makers), as well as Russian-founded Telegram.

TikTok has been under intense scrutiny amid claims that Chinese owner ByteDance puts US users' personal data at risk. CEO Shou Zi Chew in March was grilled by a congressional committee on the widely held concerns, though he insisted that "TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, US user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honor such a request if one were ever made."

By: DocMemory
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