Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat who initially supported banning TikTok in his home state of Montana, backtracked this week and suggested the state shouldn’t have banned “the silly app “.
Montana became the first US state to completely ban TikTok last week. The measure is expected to be challenged legally and will serve as a test bed for the America without TikTok that some national legislators have considered.
Montana’s new law bans TikTok downloads in the state and would fine any “entity” – an app store or TikTok – $10,000 a day for each time someone “is offered the possibility” to access the social media platform or download the application. Penalties would not apply to users.
After the measure was signed into law by Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, Tester suggested during an interview with local outlet Le Havre Daily News that TikTok should be held accountable for the acts of “treason” it has committed. He also suggested that TikTok CEO Shou Chew’s testimony before Congress earlier this year was a “train wreck”.
MONTANA BECOMES FIRST STATE IN BAN TIKTOK; LAW LIKELY TO BE CHALLENGED
The newspaper summarized Tester’s comments on the state’s action to ban the app’s use in the state: “Tester was also asked about Montana’s recent TikTok ban, saying the “Company deserves careful scrutiny and that the state has every right and many grounds to ban the app.”
Tester’s support for an “outright ban” on TikTok was also highlighted in March by The Washington Post, which reported, “Some Democrats support an outright ban, including Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont. ), who told The Early that ‘the person who politicizes this, they should be severely reprimanded.'”
Tester, who is seeking re-election to his Senate job next year, has previously said that “eliminating opportunities for China to gather data and spy on the US government is a no-brainer,” according to Alaska Beacons.
But Tester, following a TikTok lawsuit that was filed against the state earlier this week, appears to have had a change of heart about Montana’s ban on the app.
TIKTOK SUES MONTANA FOR STRONG BAN ON THE APP IN THE STATE
“So I’m not really in favor of banning anything. Quite honestly, ban it from government phones. I have no problem with that. But as far as banning the general public, I I have some issues with that,” Tester told KGVO, a Missoula radio station. “What I’d rather see done, and they can’t do it at the state level – well, I guess the attorney general could do that – but I’d like to see the Department of Justice bring these people in, the head of TikTok, in court, ask questions. And if they are committing treasonous activities, prosecute.
Despite the remarks, a spokesperson for Tester told Fox News Digital on Friday that the senator “has always supported banning TikTok from government devices and supported legislation to do so.”
“Defending the freedom and privacy of Montana residents against foreign adversaries like China is one of Senator Tester’s top priorities,” the spokesperson added. “He believes we need to prevent spying on Montanans and supports the state’s right to pass its own laws on this issue — but those steps must be balanced with respecting Montanans’ First Amendment rights.”
The tester’s previous comments that suggested the state shouldn’t have banned the app followed a lawsuit against TikTok’s Montana, which claimed banning its use violated the First Amendment.
“We challenge Montana’s unconstitutional ban on TikTok to protect our business and the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users in Montana,” a TikTok spokesperson told FOX Business in a statement. “We believe our legal challenge will prevail based on an extremely strong body of precedent and facts.”
In its lawsuit, TikTok says Montana’s ban is illegal because it violates the plaintiff’s freedom of speech, is preempted by federal law, violates the Commerce Clause, and points the company “for severe penalties based on speculative concerns about TikTok’s data security and content moderation practices.” .”
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TikTok, which is owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance, has come under intense scrutiny from Democrats and Republicans alike, over fears it could hand over user data to the Chinese government or spread pro-Beijing propaganda and disinformation on the platform. The app is already banned on federal government devices, including military devices, and several states have already moved in the same direction for state government devices.
Breck Dumas of Fox Business and Associated Press contributed to this report.