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Montana Becomes First U.S. State to Ban Chinese-Owned TikTok

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Montana Becomes First U.S. State to Ban Chinese-Owned TikTok

(CTN News) – On Wednesday, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation banning the operation of Chinese-owned TikTok in the state to safeguard residents from alleged intelligence gathering by China.

Montana’s Ban on TikTok to Take Effect in 2024, Likely to Face Legal Challenges

TikTok will be banned in Montana, but users will not face legal repercussions. The ban only applies to software retailers like Google Play and the Apple Software Store. The ban goes into effect on January 1, 2024, and will almost certainly be challenged in court.

When asked by Reuters if it planned legal action, the Chinese tech company ByteDance, which owns TikTok, did not respond.

According to a statement released by the company, the new law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” and TikTok has promised to “continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

Concerns about TikTok being influenced by the Chinese government have led to requests from U.S. senators and state officials for a statewide ban on the app, which has more than 150 million users in the United States alone.

Teenagers have taken to the app in droves. Sixty-seven percent of American teenagers aged 13 to 17 use TikTok, according to the Pew Research Centre, and sixteen percent of all teenagers report using the app fairly consistently. The “vast majority” of TikTok users are adults, the company says.

Congressional Committee Questions TikTok CEO on Data Privacy and Chinese Government Influence

The CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, was questioned by a congressional panel in March over concerns that the Chinese government would be able to access user data or exert influence over what Americans see on the app.

However, legislative efforts to outright prohibit TikTok nationwide or provide the Biden administration expanded authority to regulate the platform have stalled.

In a statement, Republican state senator Greg Gianforte argued that the bill will help fulfill “our shared priority to protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.”

REUTERS US TIKTOK1596297961 0 1

TikTok has rejected rumors that it has ever given user data to the Chinese government and has stated that it will not comply with such requests in the future.

If it continues to breach the restriction, TikTok could be fined up to $10,000 per day in Montana with just over 1 million population.

The mobile video app is available for download on Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Google smartphones through their respective app stores.

If Apple or Google, an Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) subsidiary, breaks the restriction, each company could be fined $10,000 per day, per infringement.

Neither Apple nor Google responded right away to calls for comment.

The ACLU called the bill “unconstitutional” and warned it would take effect on January 1 if the courts did not stop it.

Former President Trump’s Attempt to Ban TikTok Blocked by Courts

“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature have trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small business in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.

The 2020 ban on new TikTok and WeChat downloads issued by the Commerce Department on behalf of then-President Donald Trump was rejected by numerous courts and never went into force.

Several Democratic members of Congress, most notably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and First Amendment groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are on TikTok’s side when protecting users’ right to free expression.

General counsel for industry group NetChoice Carl Szabo also disapproves of the proposed legislation.

TikTok Working on Project Texas to Store American User Data in the U.S.

A statement he released claimed, “The government may not block our ability to access constitutionally protected speech,” adding that Montana “ignores the U.S. Constitution, due process, and free speech.”

Gianforte, who had tried to persuade the state legislature to expand the ban to include other social media apps that provide certain data to foreign adversaries, banned using all social media apps that collect and provide personal information or data to foreign adversaries on devices issued by the state government.

Project Texas is a new endeavor being developed by TikTok to form a separate organization for storing data from American users on servers owned and operated by Oracle (ORCL.N) in the United States.

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