Montana became the first state to ban TikTok yesterday as Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a complete ban on the Chinese-owned app.
The ban is set to take effect on January 1, 2024, and this move is the first major step toward a country-wide ban, an initiative supported by Republicans.
“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,” Gianforte said in a statement.
TiTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter argued that this law inhibits Montanans First Amendment right but declined to confirm if the company would be filing a lawsuit.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” Oberwetter said in a statement.
Lawmakers, the FBI, and officials at other agencies are concerned the app could be used by the Chinese government to steal data and put Americans in danger. However, the app is also a place where many queer people find community, especially in times when American lawmakers are putting queer people in danger.
Keegan Medrano, policy director for the ACLU of Montana, stated the Montana lawmakers “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.”
In addition to the TikTok ban, Gianforte announced that he was prohibiting all use of social media apps tied to “foreign adversaries” on state equipment and for state businesses. The list included WeChat, a Chinese-owned messaging app, and Telegram Messenger, a Russian-founded messaging app.
The new law prohibits the app from operating within state lines. The law also outlines potential fines of $10,000 per day for violators, including app stores found to host the social media application. The fines would not apply to individual users.