As Montana Lawmakers Pass Complete TikTok Ban, Here's Where Illinois and Other Midwest States Stand

The legislation, which was passed Friday afternoon, is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte

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While more than half of U.S. states have banned TikTok on government devices, Montana took an unprecedented step Friday as lawmakers passed legislation prohibiting downloads of the app throughout the state.

The bill, which makes it illegal for app stores to give users the option to download the app and also illegal for the company to operate within Montana, heads to Gov. Greg Gianforte, who is expected to sign it.

Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok said in a statement: “The bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts.

“We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach."

The bill's passage comes amid mounting worries over the app among lawmakers due to security concerns with its Chinese owners. Previously, the Biden administration gave TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance an ultimatum: divest ownership or face a federal ban.

Congress, the White House and U.S. armed forces have banned the app from all official devices, as have more than 25 states, including those led by Democrats and Republicans alike. Both Indiana and Iowa blocked TikTok from all state-owned devices in late December, and weeks later, Wisconsin followed suit. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, announced the decision after consulting the FBI and security experts, citing potential risks to privacy, safety and safety.

Minnesota is in a different situation, as it's weighing whether or not to implement a ban. While in Illinois, a policy that doesn't allow the use of TikTok on state devices is already in place, according to a spokesman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker's added.

"State workers are only allowed to download approved applications on their devices through an app on the device," the spokesman added. "They are not physically allowed to download anything else."

At least three Illinois state lawmakers have introduced separate pieces of legislation calling for TikTok to be prohibited on state government devices, but none have been approved by either chamber.

While Montana lawmakers have approved the one-of-a-kind ban, it's unclear how the measure would look in practice and what steps state officials would take to enforce the new policy. Violations of a ban include each time a user offered the ability to download the app. Each violation could carry a $10,000 penalty. Enforcement would be handled by the Montana Department of Justice.

The Montana bill isn’t the first blanket ban the company has faced. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump issued executive orders that banned the use of TikTok and the Chinese messaging platform WeChat. Those efforts were nixed by the courts and shelved by the Biden administration.

TikTok continued negotiations with the administration on the security concerns tied to the app. Amid rising geopolitical tensions with China, the Biden administration has threatened it could ban the app if the company’s Chinese owners don’t sell their stakes. To avoid either outcome, TikTok has been trying to sell a data safety proposal called “Project Texas” that would route all its U.S. user data to servers operated by the software giant Oracle.

Associated Press/NBC Chicago/NBC News
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