Montana’s legislature just passed a bill that would force app stores like the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store to ban TikTok in the state, making it likely to be the first in the U.S. to ban the social media site.
Following the bill’s 54-43 passing, it will go to Montana Governor Greg Gianforte who must sign the bill into law. Pushback from Gianforte is unlikely after the governor already banned TikTok on state-owned devices.
Gianforte claimed the app shares “information to the Chinese Communist Party” and said that “use of TikTok on state devices poses a significant risk to the security of our state and Montanans’ sensitive data,” in a release announcing the state-owned device TikTok ban.
However, Engadget notes that even if Gianforte is supportive, the bill is likely to face other legal challenges. TikTok CEO Shou Chew has already been on a PR campaign to assuage fears of connections to the Chinese government. Chew testified before Congress in a hearing that displayed lawmakers’ ineptitude about the internet at large, not unlike hearings from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
It’s also not the first time TikTok has been put under a microscope. Users were counting down the days to the app’s shutdown after former President Donald Trump made an ultimatum for it to sell to an American company or face a ban. That, ultimately, fell apart, and it seemed TikTok was largely in the clear. However, President Joe Biden and other lawmakers and resurrected the security debate surrounding the app.
That political climate has led up to this latest bill out of Montana, which, if passed, would impose a fine of $10,000 on a company that allowed users to access or download TikTok in Montana. That fine would apply for each day the company is not in compliance with the law, meaning a week of TikTok for someone in Montana could cost the company $70,000, though individual users are not subject to any fines.
The bill also says the law would be void should TikTok be “acquired by or sold to a company that is not incorporated in any other country designated as a foreign adversary.”
In 2020, while Trump was keen on banning the app, Microsoft stepped up with a plan to acquire TikTok. Biden eventually reversed the TikTok-target executive orders Trump put out before issuing a similar “Sell or Bust” order himself. Biden also banned the app on most federal government devices himself last year, falling in line with others, including Canada and the EU.
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