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Montana becomes 1st state to ban TikTok as battle over free speech looms


Montana Governor Greg Gianforte on Wednesday signed legislation to ban the Chinese-owned TikTok from operating in the state, making it the first state to ban the popular short video app.

Montana will make it unlawful for Google and Apple’s app stores to offer the TikTok app within its borders.

The ban takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.

TikTok, which has over 150 million American users, is facing growing calls from US lawmakers and state officials to ban the app nationwide over concerns about potential Chinese government influence over the platform.

In March, a congressional committee grilled TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew about whether the Chinese government could access user data or influence what Americans see on the app.

Gov. Gianforte, a Republican, said the bill will further “our shared priority to protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.”


Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a measure that’s more sweeping than any other state’s attempts to curtail the social media app.
AP

TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, said in a statement the bill “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” adding that they “will defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

The company has previously denied that it has ever shared data with the Chinese government and has said the company would not do so if asked.

Montana, which has a population of just over 1 million people, said TikTok could face fines for each violation and additional fines of $10,000 per day if they violate the ban.


TikTok logo
TikTok has said it will fight for Montana residents to be able to use the app.
AP

The short video app can be downloaded in app stores on Apple and Google devices. Google is a unit of Alphabet. 

The ban will likely face numerous legal challenges that it violates the First Amendment free speech rights of users.

An attempt by then President Donald Trump to ban new downloads of TikTok and WeChat through a Commerce Department order in 2020 was blocked by multiple courts and never took effect.

TikTok’s free speech allies include several Democratic members of Congress including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and First Amendment groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gianforte also prohibited the use of all social media applications that collect and provide personal information or data to foreign adversaries on government-issued devices.

TikTok is working on an initiative called Project Texas, which creates a standalone entity to store American user data in the US on servers operated by tech company Oracle.



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