April 24, 2024

Montana has become the first US state to pass legislation banning TikTok on personal devices.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has been accused of posing a national security risk through data gathered from users.

If signed into law by Governor Greg Gianforte, the ban could come into effect in January.

The company has suggested that it would take legal action to fight the Montana bill.

The bill, known as SB 419, passed by a vote of 54 to 43. It cites a number of concerns about TikTok, including alleged surveillance from the Chinese government.

It also refers to encouragement of “dangerous activities” among young users of the app, such as “throwing objects at moving automobiles” or “lighting a mirror on fire and then attempting to extinguish it using only one’s body parts”.

The legislation makes it illegal for app stores to offer TikTok. It does not, however, forbid those who already have TikTok from using it.

Violations of the bill could carry a penalty of up to $10,000 (£8,000), which would be enforced by Montana’s Department of Justice. The penalties apply to companies, rather than individual users.

Mr Gianforte, a Republican who previously banned the app on the devices of government employees, is expected to sign it.

In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said that the “bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalising this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts”.

“We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach,” the spokesperson added.

Governments around the world – including in the US have moved to restrict government employees from using TikTok on official devices.

In March, US President Biden told ByteDance that the company faces a potential federal ban if it does not divest its ownership in the app.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate panel in March that the app “screams” of potential security concerns.

He also added that authorities are “not sure that we would see many of the outward signs of it happening if it was happening”.

Industry groups have also criticised Montana’s legislation and similar efforts to restrict access to the app.

Carl Szabo, vice-president and general counsel of NetChoice – an industry group that includes TikTok – was quoted by the BBC’s US partner CBS as saying the bill “sets a dangerous precedent that the government can try to ban any business it doesn’t like without clear evidence of wrongdoing.”

 

 

 

 

Credit: By Bernd Debusmann Jr
BBC News, Washington

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