Montana lawmakers have become the first in the nation to pass legislation that would completely banish TikTok from Big Sky Country, prohibiting the app from operating on personal devices within state lines and disallowing app stores from making it available to download.
In a 54-43 vote, Montana’s House gave SB419 its stamp of approval, citing a host of security concerns involving the People’s Republic of China. The bill has now moved to the desk of Gov. Greg Gianforte and awaits his signature.
“The People’s Republic of China is an adversary of the United States and Montana and has an interest in gathering information about Montanans, Montana companies, and the intellectual property of users to engage in corporate and international espionage,” the bill reads. “TikTok gathers significant information from its users, accessing data against their will to share with the People’s Republic of China.”
While individual TikTok users would not be penalized for accessing the app, “An entity that violates a provision of this section is liable in the amount of $10,000 for each discrete violation and is liable for an additional $10,000 each day thereafter that the violation continues.”
As BizPac Review has reported, the battle over whether TikTok, owned by Chinese-owned ByteDance, should be banned from the United States has been raging since former President Donald Trump was in office and has been heating up in recent months.
In January, the White House declared that TikTok would be banned on the devices of all federal employees, and in mid-March, the U.S. Treasury Department demanded that ByteDance sell the app to avoid a full U.S. ban on the platform.
US threatens TikTok’s Chinese owners with ban unless they sell app https://t.co/hHR5Twc9Dr pic.twitter.com/Zk4Budeph7
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 17, 2023
But the message from the White House has been mixed at best.
Just this week, news broke that President Biden’s administration would be employing hundreds of TikTok influencers to spread the progressive message ahead of the 2024 elections.
So much for a ban. Team Biden to hire 100s of TikTok stars to help indoctrinate ‘young voters’ https://t.co/4y8u7n7Dde pic.twitter.com/tOASIKAoYc
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) April 11, 2023
And opposition to a total TikTok ban has come from even the most conservative of voices.
In March, Republican Senator Rand Paul called the push for a TikTok prohibition “a mistake.”
“I think it’s a really bad idea. And people need to ask themselves, ‘Why does the Chinese government ban TikTok, and do we want to emulate the Chinese government?’ So, I think it’s a mistake,” the senator told Fox News Digital. “If you ban a social media platform, you know, I don’t know if you get any clearer that that goes against the First Amendment.”
‘It’s a mistake’: Rand Paul opposes TikTok ban, cites First Amendment concerns https://t.co/lJYnK3PzD3 pic.twitter.com/xcZq2YCxRv
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 30, 2023
Back in Montana, which had already banned the use of the application on state-owned devices, it appears the lawyers are already sharpening their pencils.
In a statement obtained by CNN, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter suggested that the state’s lawmakers do not even know how such a law would be implemented.
“The bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts,” Oberwetter said. “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.”
NetChoice is a tech industry group, of which TikTok is a member. The group’s vice president and general counsel, Carl Szabo, called on Gianforte to veto the “dangerous” bill.
“This move from the Montana legislature sets a dangerous precedent that the government can try to ban any business it doesn’t like without clear evidence of wrongdoing,” Szabo said. “The US Constitution clearly forbids lawmakers from passing laws to criminalize a specific individual or business. Gov. Greg Gianforte should veto this clearly unconstitutional law.”
Meanwhile, Brooke Stroyke, a spokesperson for Gianforte, said, “The governor will carefully consider any bill the legislature sends to his desk.”
On Twitter, social media users are, for the most part, skeptical of the first-of-its-kind legislation.
“Enforcement won’t work,” stated one Twitter user. “VPNs will allow access, website can be used in lieu of app & app can be sideloaded into android devices.”
Enforcement wont work.
VPNs will allow access, website can be used in lieu of app & app can be sideloaded into android devices.
— iHeartHockey (@MoreHockeyStuff) April 14, 2023
Seems a lil unconstitutional
— Elijah Manley (@iElijahManley) April 14, 2023
Gov-forced sale needs to happen soon. App should stay usable, but get the company onto friendly soil.
— Mr. Earthy (@wholegrainstan) April 15, 2023
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