HELENA — A bill that would effectively ban TikTok in the Treasure State has passed the Montana Senate and is now headed to the House. Senate Bill 419 passed third reading Thursday 30 to 20 with bipartisan support and objection.
The federal government and state agencies in Montana have already banned TikTok on government devices. SB 419 goes further and extends to personal devices stating that “Tiktok may not operate within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana.” The legislation also prevents the mobile app from being downloaded in the state.
The bill only impacts the distribution of the app. It does not have any penalties for TikTok users.
Supporters said the ban is needed because TikTok is owned by a Chinese company and collects a large amount of data on users. The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Shelley Vance, R-Belgrade, said at a Feb. 27 Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs meeting that there is significant concern that data is being used against American interests and companies.
“After years of investigative reporting we now know this to be true, TikTok endangers the safety of Montanans and Americans at large,” said Vance. “We know that beyond a doubt that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is operating as a surveillance arm of the Chinese Communist Party and gathers information about Americans against their will.”
TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas told U.S. senators in a hearing last September no person who makes a strategic decision at TikTok is a member of the Chinese Communist Party. At the same hearing, Pappas did admit that China-based employees had accessed data from American users in the past.
In a statement regarding SB 419, Pappas said:
Every day, Montanans come to TikTok to learn something new, to share their voice and creativity, to chronicle Montana's natural beauty, and to help build their businesses. This piece of legislation is an egregious violation of Montanans' free speech rights, and it will close off Montana from the 100 million strong TikTok community in the United States. We hope that Montana legislators will consider those serious consequences—and the disastrous precedent they're setting—and weigh them against the deeply flawed arguments put forward to justify this ban.
SB 419 will still need to be passed by the House and signed by the Governor before any changes would occur.