The law prohibits app stores from making TikTok available for download in the state. It comes as state lawmakers accused China of using the social media app to spy on Americans and steal their data.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gianforte said. “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.”
To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) May 17, 2023
The bill was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Shelley Vance, who said that TikTok was “a major threat to our national security.” TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, and has been accused of allowing the communist country access to data on Americans.
Entities, including TikTok or an app store, could be fined $10,000 every time someone accesses the app in the state or downloads it. Penalties will be enforced by the Montana Department of Justice.
“I appreciate Attorney General [Austin] Knudsen and Senator Vance for their partnership on this important measure and for advancing our shared priority to protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance,” Gianforte said.
Jamal Brown, a spokesman for TikTok who previously worked in the Biden administration, said more than 200,000 people and 6,000 businesses use the app in Montana, which has a population of about 1.1 million people.
The law is expected to face legal challenges, including from some free speech groups.
“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,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has concluded that TikTok poses meaningful national security risks.
CFIUS, a board composed of nine cabinet-level officials who weigh the national security implications of international investments, ordered ByteDance in March to sell the platform or face a nationwide ban. The agency initially concluded after a national security review in 2020 that TikTok could “impair the national security of the United States,” a revelation that nearly prompted former President Donald Trump to ban the platform via executive order.