Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte defended the decision to ban the Chinese-owned app TikTok, saying he wishes the restriction could be broader to include other apps owned by U.S. adversaries.
The ability of the Chinese Communist Party “to use TikTok to spy on Americans is well documented. That’s why I’m pleased that we banned the application here in Montana,” Gianforte said on Fox News’s “America Reports” aired on May 18.
“I wish the bill actually was broader. I would have liked to have picked up other social media apps that [are] owned by foreign adversaries, but this is a good step in the right direction.”
Gianforte signed the bill into law on May 17 prohibiting Montana residents from using the app. The bill would make it illegal for Google and Apple’s app stores to offer Montana users the download option.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter described the bill as unlawful, arguing the ban is an infringement of people’s First Amendment rights.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also said the government has no right to impose a total ban on communication platforms like TikTok.
Asked about ACLU’s criticism, Gianforte said, “They’re just wrong.”
The governor stated the Montana Constitution has “very broad protection for individual privacy” which he claimed TikTok violated.
“I mean, spying on Americans, enough of—is enough. We’re not going to let foreign adversaries surveil the people of Montana.”
The Epoch Times reached out to TikTok for comment and has not received a response as of press time.
A woman walks past the headquarters of ByteDance, the parent company of video sharing app TikTok, in Beijing, China, on Sept. 16, 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)
TikTok, a video-sharing platform with 150 million users in America, is founded and owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed security concerns about the viral app that could hand over American users’ data to the Chinese authorities, given China’s intelligence law that compels “any organization or citizen” to “support, assist, and cooperate” with security and intelligence agencies when asked.
A former ByteDance executive alleged that Chinese officials had access to all company data, including those stored in the United States, according to a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court on May 12. A ByteDance spokesperson told The Epoch Times they plan to “vigorously oppose” what the company described as “baseless claims and allegations” in the complaint.
TikTok is facing growing calls to ban the app nationwide. A bipartisan bill that would empower the Biden administration’s ability to ban TikTok and other foreign-owned technologies has been endorsed by the White House. A co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), flagged TikTok as a national security threat due to its ties to the CCP. Warner told NTD that the CCP could manipulate news on the platform and use pro-Beijing misinformation to shape the thinking of young Americans.
More than half of U.S. states banned TikTok on government-owned devices, but Montana is the first to enact a complete ban on the app.
The Republican governor suggested he wanted to go further. Gianforte agreed with the Fox News host that he wishes the restriction could cover more foreign-own platforms, such as WeChat, a Chinese-owned messaging app, and CapCut, a less-known TikTok sibling for video editing that is gaining ground in the United States.
“The issue with TikTok and these other applications owned by foreign adversaries is that they’re able to steal data about Americans and ship it back for nefarious purposes,” Gianforte said.
“It’s not what the app does, It’s where the personal data goes,” he continued.
“It’s a national security issue. It’s a violation of the Montana privacy clause in our constitution. We’re pleased we’re the first state in the country to outright ban the application,
“Again, I wish it was broader. I wished it picked up the Russian apps and the other Chinese apps.”
TikTok advertisement in Union Station, Washington, Feb. 17, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)Legal Challenge
Montana’s statewide ban, set to take effect from Jan. 1, 2024, is facing challenges in court.
Five TikTok content creators are suing Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen to overturn the ban.
They argued in the legal complaint, filed in federal court in Missoula on May 17, that the ban restricted their constitutional right to free speech.
“Montana has no authority to enact laws advancing what it believes should be the United States’ foreign policy or its national security interests, nor may Montana ban an entire forum for communication based on its perceptions that some speech shared through that forum, though protected by the First Amendment, is dangerous,” the lawsuit stated.
Gianforte told Fox News he had expected a legal challenge, and was prepared to defend the move.
“We have looked at it from all facets and we believe we are going to stand up and protect the people in Montana,” Gianforte said.
“I think that’s what the American people want and we have taken decisive action to do so.”