BILLINGS — Montana became the first state to pass a bill on Friday that would ban the popular streaming app TikTok. If Gov. Greg Gianforte signs the measure into law, it would become illegal to download the app in the state and would fine entities such as app stores $10,000 per violation.
Bozeman resident Shauna White Bear has used the popular app to market her business White Bear Moccasins since 2020. In 2021, TikTok revealed it had over 1 billion users worldwide.
“TikTok reaches a larger, broader audience versus Instagram,” White Bear said. “I went from 100 followers to 20,000. Which is insane.”
White Bear creates handmade leather moccasins and shows the process on her TikTok account. She said the app isn't just free marketing for her business but a way to "educate the world about the indigenous community in Montana."
Supporters of the ban argue that the Chinese-owned app is taking information from its users. Republican Representative Shelley Vance compared TikTok to the Chinese balloon. She said in March at the House Judiciary Committee that the app is another one of "China's surveillance" tools.
"TikTok endangers the safety of Montanans and Americans at large," Vance said.
White Bear understands the concerns about sharing data but said that another popular app, Facebook, does the same and said the passing of the bill is due to people not being educated about the app.
“I just expected more from Montanans. But if it’s a generation that’s voting on this that doesn’t understand the app I don’t know if they should be making these big decisions," White Bear said. "I'm actually kind of shocked that this is something that is even considered."
White Bear also said she feels sad for other creators in Montana who use the app to get exposure for their businesses. TikTok uses White Bear on billboards in the state trying to show small businesses and the impact a ban on the app would have. On the billboard, it states that White Bear turns "millions of views into 70% of her sales."
If signed into law, the ban would start on January 1, 2024. The bill also states another reason for the ban is because TikTok promotes dangerous challenges and trends that impact the health of Montanans.
TikTok released a message to Montanans on their website about the bill in March.
"Montana’s bill isn’t about making users safe, it's about unilaterally restricting the freedom of Montanans based on nothing more than fears and falsehoods," one part of the statement said.