Montana lawmakers have proposed a statewide prohibition on TikTok due to national security concerns regarding the app’s connections to China. The Republican-controlled state House approved the bill on Friday following its passage in the Senate. The bill prohibits app stores “from offering the TikTok application to Montana users.”
It is now on its way to the desk of Republican Governor Greg Gianforte, who has not yet indicated whether he will sign it. His office said he would carefully consider any bill the legislature sends to his desk. Upon the governor’s signature, the measure would take effect on January 1, 2024.
According to the bill’s text, the reason for the ban is that TikTok gathers significant information from its users, accessing data against their will to share with the People’s Republic of China, and fails to remove, and may even promote, dangerous content that directs minors to engage in dangerous activities.
Shelley Vance, a Republican state senator, sponsored the bill and described TikTok as “a major threat to our national security.”
ByteDance, a Chinese company, owns TikTok, which has been accused of enabling China access to data on Americans.
A representative for TikTok stated that the prohibition would violate the First Amendment and be difficult to implement. Adding that they would continue to fight for Montana TikTok users. According to spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter, this egregious government overreach threatens the livelihoods and First Amendment rights of Montana TikTok users and creators.
If companies such as Apple and Google enable the app to be downloaded from their app stores, they could be fined $10,000 per day. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and allied organizations have also opposed the moratorium, claiming it would violate Montanans’ constitutional right to free expression.
It was reported last month that TikTok was under investigation for allegedly spying on American citizens. The FBI, the Criminal Division and Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office launched a criminal investigation into allegations that TikTok spied on American journalists. ByteDance has been subpoenaed by prosecutors for efforts by its employees to access location information or other private user data of U.S. journalists using the TikTok app.
A federal prohibition on the app TikTok has been proposed, and the Biden administration has indicated it may be inclined to support such a ban.