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Montana rancher says TikTok ban would harm business

Posted at 8:22 AM, Mar 15, 2023

TOWNSEND - A bill that would "Stop the Tok" is working its way through the Montana Legislature, and for at least one ranching business in the state banning TikTok would mean much more than losing an entertainment app.

Caroline Nelson and her husband are first-generation ranchers who advertise their business,Little Creek Lamb and Beef, over TikTok. Without the app, their main source of advertising would be gone.

“For me, as a small business owner, I get very nervous at the idea that our ability to market our products would be, you know, shut down," Nelson said. “Us right now, especially because we're first generation, we're kind of an unconventional way of coming into ranching. We are very dependent on these other forms of marketing. Social media is 100% of how we get our products out there.”

TikTok gained most of its popularity in 2019 and became one of the most popular social media apps. The bill to ban TikTok has successfully passed the Montana Senate and is now heading to the House. Gov. Greg Gianforte issued a directive banning the use of Tik Tok on state-owned devices and networks in December.

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The bill holds TikTok and app stores accountable, not individual users.

Kyler Nerison, communications director and spokesman for Attorney General Austin Knudsen and the Montana Department of Justice, said the ban could be enforced with fines.

"The Department of Justice would fine app stores or TikTok $10,000 for each discrete violation and $10,000 for each day that a violation continues," he said.

Nelson believes a ban on the social app isn't in the best interest of Montana businesses.

“Small businesses like me, I don't just sell to Montanans, I sell everywhere," said Nelson. "So if I can't market on TikTok or on any social platform, it puts Montanans at a unique disadvantage compared to other small businesses in other states."

Nelson said the app has helped her more than hurt her business.

“We actually had a viral video on TikTok a couple of weeks ago that allowed us to reach, it was like half a million people, and it allowed us to double one whole arm of our business, doubled literally overnight,” said Nelson.

Nelson hopes that instead of banning the app altogether there can be a middle ground.

“I understand the need to protect Montanans' data," said Nelson. "To me, I'm like, is there a middle ground that doesn't absolutely take us out at the knees?”