Montana Governor Issues First-in-Nation TikTok Ban; Legal Challenge Expected; Second Bill Includes Any Apps “Tied To Foreign Adversaries”

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The Governor also signed a second bill that forbade state employees from downloading and using any social media apps “tied to foreign adversaries,” such as ByteDance-owned CapCut and Lemon8, as well as the Russian app Telegram Messenger.  File photo: B Zhou/Top CNX, Shutter Stock, licensed.

HELENA, MT – TikTok, the popular short-form video hosting app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, was officially banned statewide in Montana after Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill Wednesday, saying that he carried out the action “to protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.” 

The ban, the first-ever levied against TikTok in the United States, is expected to be legally challenged in court. 

The Montana bill comes amid heated talks by federal lawmakers over whether or not to institute a nationwide ban on TikTok, citing the app’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party as being a major national security concern, in addition to it being potentially harmful to its many teen users

The bill – SB419 – passed in Montana’s House of Representatives on a vote of 54-43, after which it was sent to Gianforte’s desk for his signature. It will take effect as of January 1, 2024, and prohibits the app from operating anywhere within the confines of the state; violators of the ban could face fines as high as $10,000 per day, including app stores that host it for downloading purposes. 

Upon news of the ban being signed into law, TikTok released a statement saying that they would pursue legal action to protect the First Amendment rights of their Montana users. 

“Governor 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,” the statement said. “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.” 

Gianforte also signed a second bill on Wednesday that forbade state employees from downloading and using social media apps “tied to foreign adversaries,” such as ByteDance-owned CapCut and Lemon8, as well as the Russian app Telegram Messenger. 

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