HELENA, Mont. — Update: After suspending the rules in order to finish pre-transmittal business on Thursday night, the Montana Senate approved Senate Bill 419, the ban on TikTok, by a 30-20 vote. The bill now heads to the house. The original story is below:
An outright ban on the use of TikTok in Montana is one step closer to becoming law.
An amended version of Senate Bill 419 passed second reading on Thursday, 30-20, with bipartisan support and opposition. 28 of 34 Republicans and 2 of 16 Democrats voted for the bill.
The bill prohibits app stores from allowing TikTok to operate in Montana.
The amendment on the bill removes the responsibility of Internet Service Providers from preventing TikTok from operating inside the state. A lobbyist speaking on behalf of AT&T told the Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Economic Affairs on Monday that putting the onus on ISPs would not be a feasible solution, as it would be unprecedented, expensive and potentially impossible.
There would be no penalties for users of the app, but entities found in violation of the law could be fined up to $10,000 for each discreet offense, a fine that could be multiplied based on how many people were able to access TikTok through an app store.
Those in favor of the bill cite serious security concerns and danger to youth, while opponents say an outright ban is a step too far.
“Tiktok’s parent company Bytedance is operating as a surveillance arm of the Chinese Communist Party, and gathers information about Americans against their will,” said State Sen. Shelley Vance (R-Belgrade), the bill’s sponsor.
“I understand government banning it on sensitive government devices. That makes sense. But to ban it to the general public, to me, is high overreach,” said State Sen. Jeremy Trebas (R-Great Falls).
Gov. Greg Gianforte has already banned TikTok from state-run networks and state-owned devices.
The bill, which would take effect in 2024, will clear the Senate and head to the House on Friday if it is approved on third reading.
TikTok chief operating officer V Pappas issued the following statement on SB 419: "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."