Last year, Montana’s Governor Gianforte banned TikTok on state government devices, claiming the app posed a significant risk to sensitive state data. TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter promised a legal challenge over the measure’s constitutionality. TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has faced scrutiny over concerns it could share user data with the Chinese government or spread pro-Beijing propaganda. Supporters of the ban point to Chinese laws that require companies to cooperate with the government on state intelligence work. Congress is considering legislation that would allow the Commerce Department to restrict foreign threats on tech platforms more broadly. TikTok claims it has a plan to protect U.S. user data.
Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen said the state’s legislation is a critical step to protect Montanans’ privacy. The measure would prohibit TikTok downloads in the state and fine any entity $10,000 per day for each time someone is offered the ability to access or download the app. The ban would not take effect until January 2024 and would become void if Congress passes a national measure or if TikTok severs its connections with China. A representative from tech trade group TechNet told state lawmakers that app stores cannot geofence apps on a state-by-state basis, so the Apple App Store and Google Play Store could not enforce the law.
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