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Montana Enacts Total Ban of TikTok

'The risk of foreign adversaries obtaining Montanans’ personal, private, sensitive information and data however is not limited to TikTok alone,' said Governor Greg Gianforte

Montana has become the first state in the union to entirely ban TikTok.

The popular social media app is headquartered in Beijing and has raised concerns about user data privacy and potential threats to national security.

“To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” tweeted Governor Greg Gianforte on May 17.

Montana was one of more than 20 states that barred the use of TikTok on any government devices in order to safeguard private information that the app may be able to access because of its user agreement. Montana’s policy also bans “any third-party firms conducting business for or on behalf of the State of Montana from using TikTok.”

Gianforte’s latest action marks an expansion of the TikTok prohibition – penalizing the companies that enable Montana residents to use the app within the state. Entities, such as the Apple app store, the Google Play store, or TikTok, can now be fined $10,000 per day for each time someone uses the app or the app is available for download and access.

“One of the government’s chief responsibilities is to keep its citizens – and their personal, private, sensitive information and data – safe and secure,” said Gianforte in a statement on May 17. “Foreign adversaries’ collection and use of Montanans’ personal information and data from social media applications infringe on Montanans’ constitutionally guaranteed individual right to privacy.”

“TikTok, a video-sharing social media application owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., harvests expansive amounts of personal information and data from its users’ devices, much of which is unrelated to the app’s purported objective of video sharing,” the governor continued. “It is well-documented that the company provides such information and data to the Chinese Communist Party.”

“The risk of foreign adversaries obtaining Montanans’ personal, private, sensitive information and data however is not limited to TikTok alone,” noted Gianforte. “Like TikTok, many popular social media applications are based in countries identified by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce as a foreign adversary.”

Examples of such platforms include Lemon8, Telegram Messenger, Temu, and WeChat.

TikTok and other impacted companies have time to prepare for the change. The ban goes into effect in January 2024.

A TikTok spokesperson told AP News that there are 200,000 individuals and 6,000 businesses that use the app in Montana. The company is expected to challenge the ban in court.

We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” a company spokesperson said in a statement published by The Guardian

The ban’s announcement was followed by questions about the logistics of its enforcement. TikTok users in Montana may be able to circumvent any restriction by using a VPN.

Fully closing off access to the app would be nigh impossible unless Montana decided to follow the route of countries such as Iran or, ironically, China itself, and greatly limit access to such services,” noted The Guardian.

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