Montana legislators discuss bills banning foreign purchases of land, use of TikTok

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:29 PM CST
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HELENA, M.T. (KUMV) - Montana lawmakers are looking at a couple of bills they say would limit foreign interference by adversaries.

Earlier this month, a Chinese spy balloon flew over Montana, increasing concerns about how China conducts its intelligence.

“This brazen violation of our national sovereignty gathered untold information in service of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Sen. Shelley Vance, R-Belgrade.

The Montana State Senate has two bills aimed at stopping foreign espionage. Senate Bill 203 prohibits any purchase of critical infrastructure or agricultural land to an entity with ties to a foreign adversary such as China or North Korea.

“We need to be proactive in preventing our adversaries from gaining advantages in influence, espionage, and asymmetrical warfare,” said Sen. Kenneth Bogner, R-Miles City.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 419 looks to ban the use of TikTok in the state. The China-owned app collects user data that some worry would be shared with the Chinese government.

“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 Vance.

The bill also fines internet service and app store providers $10,000 for any violations. Opponents argue it’s not realistically possible for a company to selectively ban a website in one state.

“The burden this places on internet service providers is not workable in practice. This has never been done before in the United States. It would be costly and burdensome,” said Shane Scanlon, a representative of AT&T.

Senate Bill 203 is awaiting a third reading, while Senate Bill 419 passed through committee Monday in a seven to three vote.

The use of TikTok has already been banned for state employees and within the Montana University System.