According to an article by Helena Mont of AP News, Montana lawmakers are pushing forward with a proposal to ban the social media app TikTok from operating in the state. The bill is more comprehensive than other state and federal bans that only prohibit TikTok on government devices. The legislation has the support of Montana’s GOP-controlled legislature, and a second hearing vote was scheduled in the House on Thursday. If approved, the bill would likely move to a final House vote on Friday, and then to Republican Governor Greg Gianforte. The Senate passed the bill in March with a vote of 30-20.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has been under scrutiny over concerns that user data could be handed over to the Chinese government, or that the platform could be used to promote pro-Beijing propaganda and misinformation. While lawmakers have raised these concerns, they have not presented any evidence that it has happened.
Supporters of the ban point to two Chinese laws that require companies to cooperate with the government on state intelligence work, as well as other troubling incidents involving ByteDance. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen urged state lawmakers to pass the bill, as he was unsure whether Congress would act quickly on a federal ban.
Under the proposed bill, downloads of TikTok in Montana would be prohibited, and any penalties would not apply to users. The bill would hold app stores or TikTok liable for $10,000 for each violation, and an additional $10,000 fine would be imposed for each day the violation continues. The bill does not apply to internet service providers after that language was removed from a previous version of the bill.
TikTok Ban in Montana – Why it Might Not Be the Best Idea?
Opponents of the bill argue that it constitutes government overreach and that residents could easily circumvent the ban by using a Virtual Private Network. Some also believe that the bill is an exercise of censorship and violates free speech rights.
TikTok has been fighting back against the proposed ban, with the company encouraging users in the state to speak out against the bill and hiring lobbyists to do so as well. The company has also purchased billboards, run full-page newspaper ads, and has a website opposing Montana’s legislation. Some ads placed in local newspapers highlight how local businesses were able to use the app to drive sales.
This bill is not the first blanket ban TikTok has faced. In 2020, former President Donald Trump issued executive orders that banned the use of TikTok and the Chinese messaging platform WeChat, but those efforts were blocked by the courts and ultimately shelved by the Biden administration. TikTok has been negotiating with the administration on the security concerns associated with the app and has proposed a data safety plan called “Project Texas” that would route all U.S. user data to servers operated by Oracle.