On Wednesday, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte did not only ban TikTok statewide. He also accused Telegram, WeChat and the shopping app Temu were “tied to foreign adversaries” and ordered these and similar apps banned from government devices and all state affairs. Gianforte also cited TikTok owner ByteDance’s CapCut video editor and Lemon8 as examples of offensive apps.
With this ban, Gianforte appears to be largely targeting apps associated with China, as ByteDance, Temu owner Pinduoduo, and WeChat owner Tencent are all based in the country. Telegram is the exception: it was founded in Russia, but currently is headquarter in Dubai. Gianforte’s letter alleges that the Russian government is using the app to “monitor users and obtain personal, sensitive, confidential information,” perhaps referring to Wired February report.
Montana’s new policy goes into effect on June 1. The list of devices that cannot have the apps includes “all state-issued cell phones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers, and other devices that connect to the Internet.” And the ban doesn’t just apply to government employees: Gianforte says “third party companies doing business for or on behalf of the state of Montana will not use these applications.”
Gianforte had already blocked TikTok on government devices or devices connected to the state network from December, so this extends that policy to a range of other important apps. For example, WeChat and Telegram Messenger are widely used for chats, and shopping app Temu is currently the most popular free app in the US on the App Store and Google Play. If the offending apps are currently downloaded on devices, Gianforte has instructed them to be “uninstalled immediately”.
Despite Gianforte’s claims that it is “well documented” that TikTok is providing personal information and data to the Chinese Communist Party, it’s unclear whether owner ByteDance is actually passing that data on to the government. But as we reported in March, Congress doesn’t seem particularly interested in the answers — many have already made up their mind.