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Montana bans TikTok for all residents


The state’s action follows efforts in Congress, including a bipartisan bill in the Senate targeting TikTok and other apps from foreign adversaries. But momentum has stalled in recent weeks after libertarian members like it Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and progressive Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) spoke out against a ban.

The ban will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, if the courts don’t act first, and any app stores offering TikTok to the state’s 1.1 million residents could face fines enforced by the Montana Department of Justice. That penalty starts at an initial fine of $10,000 per violation and then $10,000 per day when a violation continues.

TikTok says the law violates the First Amendment and that the company is evaluating its next legal steps. “We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, make a living and find community as we continue to work to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” said Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson, in a statement.

Similarly, Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, a technology trade group that represents TikTok, said, “We are disappointed to see Governor Gianforte sign this clearly unconstitutional bill.”

The signing also drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union. “With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana Legislature have trampled on the free speech rights of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information and run their small businesses in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, policy director at the ACLU in Montana. “We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points.”

The legislature passed the bill in April, and Gianforte proposed changes to the bill later that month to extend the ban to any social media that sends US users’ data to a foreign adversary. The legislative session ended before they could consider the changes, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Gianforte also sent a directive to the state’s Chief Information Officer on Wednesday to ban social media apps from all foreign adversaries on all government-issued devices or while connected to government internet networks. This includes social media apps from TikTok’s owner ByteDance, including CapCut, Lemon8 and TikTok, as well as Telegram messenger, which was founded in Russia; Temu, which is owned by China-based Pinduoduo, and WeChat, which is owned by China-based Tencent.

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