HELENA, Montana (LifeSiteNews) — The Republican-led state of Montana on Wednesday became the first to entirely ban TikTok, the most sweeping state action to date against the Chinese-owned social media app. The ban is slated to take effect in January 2024.
Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 419 on May 17, prohibiting app stores from providing TikTok to Montana-based users. Owned by Chinese corporation ByteDance and boasting 150 million American users, TikTok has sparked national security worries from both sides of the political aisle due to its ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In a Wednesday press release, Gov. Gianforte said it’s been “well-documented” that the CCP is “using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information.”
“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 Communist Party,” he said.
To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) May 17, 2023
In addition to TikTok, the governor also banned any other social media apps “that collect and provide personal information or data to foreign adversaries on government-issued devices, while connected to the state network, or for state business in Montana.”
The Treasure State may serve as a bellwether for future statewide bans on TikTok. Hours after Gianforte signed SB 419, a law firm filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of five TikTok “creators,” alleging the ban violates the First Amendment. A spokeswoman for the state has said Montana is ready to fight the lawsuit in court.
The move by Montana to ban the app comes after Republican and Democrat lawmakers raised concerns on Capitol Hill about its potential risks to national security.
The Associated Press noted that Communist-controlled China had “passed laws in 2014 and 2017 that compel companies to cooperate with the country’s government for state intelligence work.” TikTok has insisted it hasn’t given user data to China and wouldn’t comply with a request to do so, a claim rejected by members of Congress.
In December, after initially denying claims of spying, TikTok admitted that ByteDance employees had used the app to spy on American TikTok users and had targeted several U.S. journalists. Four ByteDance employees were subsequently fired and the company promised to do better to protect user data.
While Montana is the first state to prohibit TikTok for all users, the app has already been banned on government devices in all federal agencies and more than half of all states. Federal lawmakers and the Biden administration have also floated a nationwide ban. However, proposed legislation marketed as banning the app was blasted by conservatives as a trojan horse for a drastic expansion of federal powers. Progress on a national ban has largely ground to a halt.
Meanwhile, potential threats to national security aren’t the only reasons lawmakers and others have been critical of the popular social media platform. Critics have also slammed TikTok for allegedly promoting harmful content (including transgender ideology and videos about suicide) to children and teens. An estimated 1.4 million children under the age of 13 use the app in the United States.
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Some have pointed out that, while the app’s algorithm appears to favor dangerous or harmful content for American youth, its Chinese equivalent “Douyin” is programmed to promote useful, child-friendly content to its young Chinese users and regulate kids’ time on the app with a 40-minute per day cutoff.
“China’s version of TikTok promotes math & engineering, while the U.S. version promotes addictive sexualized content to kids,” said Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy in February, calling the app “digital fentanyl from China, flowing through our phones instead of the southern border.”