Montana Legislature Approves Outright TikTok Ban

Montana Legislature Approves Outright TikTok Ban

Montana Legislature Approves Outright TikTok Ban

The Montana House of Representatives on Friday approved a total ban on TikTok inside the state, requiring the state’s Republican governor to sign the first such ban into law.

The legislation, which would also ban app stores from offering TikTok, the hugely popular viral video app, was approved by 54 to 43 votes in the last of two votes at the State House. The state Senate passed it in March.

Governor Greg Gianforte must decide whether to sign the bill, veto it, or do nothing for 10 days after receiving the bill and let it become law without his signature. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gianforte did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A TikTok spokeswoman, Brooke Oberwetter, said in a statement that supporters of the bill have admitted they don’t have a workable plan to execute the ban.

“We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this gross government abuse,” she said.

Montana’s Republican-controlled legislature has become an unlikely battleground in recent weeks in a growing tech fight between the United States and China. Washington lawmakers have said for years they believe TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, could feed information to Beijing or be used to spread propaganda. The Biden administration has told TikTok it wants its Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the app or face a possible national ban.

Concerns about the app have arisen as the US government tries to stymie Chinese telecom companies and chipmakers while backing competitors. In 2020, the government forced a Chinese company to sell the Grindr dating app.

Under Montana law, TikTok could face fines if it continued to operate in the state, as could Apple and Google if they allowed users to download the app. The law lifts the ban, which would take effect in 2024, if TikTok is sold to a company that is not incorporated in an opposing nation.

Supporters of the ban say Beijing could use the app to obtain Montana user data. They point to ByteDance’s admission that some of its employees inappropriately accessed journalists’ data while investigating leaks about the company.

Montana will be in uncharted territory if it tries to ban the app. A trade group funded by Apple and Google said companies cannot stop app downloads in one state. Critics of the legislation say TikTok users could conceal their location to retain access to the app, and the ban may be difficult to enforce in border towns.

Lawmakers narrowly rejected a proposed amendment to the bill that would have broadened the ban to all online services providing data to hostile powers.

The ban will likely be challenged in court if it becomes law. The American Civil Liberties Union and other free speech groups said the bill violates the First Amendment rights of Montanese who use the app. But the state attorney general, whose office drafted the bill, said he was ready for a court battle.


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