Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a new law on Wednesday that will make Montana the first state in the United States to ban the popular Chinese-owned media giant TikTok from personal devices. The ban, set to take effect on January 1st, has drawn criticism from TikTok, which argues that it infringes on the First Amendment rights of Montana residents.
However, Governor Gianforte and supporters of the ban claim that it is necessary to protect Montanans from potential surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party. The move comes as authorities around the world have raised concerns about data privacy and potential Chinese government influence associated with the social media platform, a BBC report read.
Montana Takes a Stand
In a vote of 54 to 43, lawmakers in Montana passed a bill last month banning TikTok on personal devices. The law will make it illegal for app stores to offer TikTok for download in the state. However, it does not prevent individuals who already have the app from using it. Montana, with its population of just over 1 million, had previously banned TikTok on government devices in December.
TikTok, which boasts 150 million American users, is expected to challenge the legislation in court. The company argues that the ban restricts the First Amendment rights of its users in Montana. TikTok has become a popular platform for self-expression, income generation, and community-building, particularly among teenagers and users in their 20s. The company reassures Montanans that it will continue to defend the rights of its users, both within and outside of Montana.
National Security Concerns
TikTok's Chinese ownership by ByteDance has raised national security concerns, leading to increased scrutiny by authorities. In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced questioning from a congressional committee regarding the potential access of user data by the Chinese government and its influence on the app's content. While Chew denied any spying on Americans, he did admit to employees accessing the TikTok accounts of journalists for information.
Implications and Potential Penalties
The ban in Montana will impose penalties of up to $10,000 for companies that violate the law, enforceable by Montana's Department of Justice. This means that major technology companies like Apple and Google could face fines if they allow TikTok to be downloaded from their app stores in Montana. ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, has consistently denied any control by the Chinese government, but pressure from the US government to sell TikTok or face a nationwide ban has continued to mount.
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