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