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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana lawmakers approve statewide TikTok ban

A screen capture of the TikTok app on the Google Play store on April 14, 2023. Info on screen says TiKTok has been download greater than 1 billion times on the Google app store.
Josh Burnham
A screen capture of the TikTok app on the Google Play store on April 14, 2023.

A statewide ban on TikTok is headed to the governor’s desk for consideration. Lawmakers in favor of the bill said they were concerned about TikTok, the popular video sharing app, providing user data to the Chinese government. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company headquartered in Beijing.

Republican Representative Brandon Ler, from Savage, brought the bill in the House.

"TikTok is a national security threat. This app steals information and data from users, and its ability to share that data with the Chinese Communist Party is unacceptable and infringes on Montanans’ rights to privacy," Ler said.

Opponents suggested that banning one app would not seriously protect Montanans’ data. Democratic Rep. Katie Sullivan of Missoula brought an amendment that would remove the ban and prohibit all social media companies from sharing user data with any foreign adversary. That amendment was killed.

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The bill proposes to ban the app by fining app store providers like Apple and Google tens of thousands of dollars for any instance where the app is available to download within Montana’s borders.

In the House hearing on the bill, a representative from TechNet, a trade group that includes Google and Apple, said that state-level restriction would be “impossible” for them to enforce.

A TikTok spokesperson called the legislation “egregious government overreach” in a statement after the bill’s passage.

The bill was written by the Montana Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Austin Knudsen. Knudsen said in an interview with the New York Times he expects the bill to be challenged in court.

Gov. Greg Gianforte has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill. The Governor issued an order in December to ban the app from all state-owned devices.

If the bill becomes law, Montana would be the first state in the nation to ban the application. The ban would go into effect in 2024 and would be void if TikTok is sold to an American company before that time.

Montana is now the latest state to push back against the extremely popular short-form video-sharing app, TikTok. On Friday, Gov. Greg Gianforte prohibited its use on state equipment.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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