On May 17th, Governor Greg Gianforte signed Senate Bill 419, effectively banning the social media app TikTok from the entire state of Montana. The bill prohibits “the use of all social media applications tied to foreign adversaries on state equipment and for state business” according to a statement issued on Montana’s official state website.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented. Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Governor Gianforte.
Montana is the first state in the country to ban TikTok. Amendments to broaden the bill’s reach to all social media platforms providing members’ personal data to foreign adversaries or anyone associated with them, though were not included before the legislation was passed.
In a memo to Montana’s Chief Information Officer, Governor Gianforte wrote:
“One of the government’s chief responsibilities is to keep its citizens – and their personal, private, sensitive information and data – safe and secure. Foreign adversaries’ collection and use of Montanans’ personal information and data from social media applications infringe on Montanans’ constitutionally guaranteed individual right to privacy.”
TikTok is banned from all devices connected to the state network, government-issued devices, and all state business starting June 1st, 2023. This applies to third parties who do business within or for Montana.
“No executive agency, board, commission, or other executive branch entity, official, or employee of the State of Montana shall download or access social media applications that provide personal information or data to foreign adversaries on government-issued devices or while connected to the state network.”
The bill will be strictly enforced and platforms that offer TikTok can face fines up to $10,000 a day until they comply with Montana’s new law.
TikTok will likely challenge the bill in federal court as there is no direct evidence it is a spy tactic utilized by the Chinese government although the app has been fined several times before. Regardless if this is merely a rumor, TikTok has already been banned from federal government devices in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom as well as the States, and New Zealand.