Montana is the first state to pass a bill banning the video-streaming app TikTok because the Chinese government could ask for information about Americans from the app.
The bill was sent to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte on Friday, 14 April 2023, by the Republican-controlled Montana House of Representatives. He can now sign it into law.
The bill makes downloading the famous video-streaming app TikTok in the state illegal. Anyone, like the app stores for Apple and Google or TikTok itself, who makes the app available could be fined up to $10,000 a day.
If the ban is implemented, it won’t start until January 2024.
Before then, TikTok is likely to take the law to federal court, which will likely set up a legal fight that backers of the law in Montana say could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said that the bill’s supporters have admitted that there is “no feasible plan” to ban TikTok because it would be hard to stop people from downloading apps in each state. Oberwetter said that the plan would silence the opinions of Montanans.
“We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach,” Oberwetter said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is another group against the bill. The ACLU has said that the move violates the right to free speech and that it “would set an alarming precedent for the government to have too much control over how Montanans use the internet.”
But backers point to a Chinese intelligence law from 2017 that says private companies have to give the government information about their customers if Beijing asks for it. This is true even though TikTok said it would never agree to such a request.
But the bill says that the ban would stop if TikTok were sold to a company in a country that was not an enemy. If Congress passes a law that makes TikTok illegal everywhere, the bill would be null and worthless.
TikTok is getting a hard time in Montana, even though the Biden government is still talking to the company about its future in the U.S. Last month, people from the White House told TikTok to break away from its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, or the whole country could be shut down.
TikTok is also in the sights of Congress. A bill that is getting support from both Democrats and Republicans would give the Department of Commerce the power to ban apps that are run by “foreign adversaries,” which could include TikTok.
Lawmakers in Montana and Washington, D.C., as well as other states, see TikTok as a possible threat to national security.
Since ByteDance owns TikTok, people worry that the Chinese Communist Party could ask for access to the 150 million TikTok accounts in the U.S. and use the personal information to spy on U.S. citizens or spread false information on the app.
Even though the fears have grown stronger in recent months, there is no proof that Chinese officials have ever tried to look into TikTok’s data that is open to the public.
Last month, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew went to Washington to calm worries about the social media app. He was asked tough questions by politicians from both parties.
Most politicians thought that Chew’s evidence, which was sometimes vague about China, was not convincing and only made them more against TikTok.
The Trump government tried to shut down TikTok in the U.S. on the same grounds of national security. But the federal courts stopped the move, saying that the executive branch was going too far and that there wasn’t enough proof to show that TikTok was a security risk.
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