The Clock is Ticking

The Clock is Ticking

Will Eaton, Staff Writer

**UPDATE** On May 17th, 2023, Governor Gianforte signed SB 419  into law. The legislation will take effect on January 1, 2024, if it is not overruled by the courts. 

TikTok – the video-sharing app used by millions – frontlines much of our modern-day culture. The social media platform influences trends, music sales, and income for many, and it’s also been deemed an urgent threat to national security.  

The national controversy regarding the app stealing data for the Chinese government has also been seen on a local level in our state legislature. SB 419 states that “Tiktok may not operate within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana.” Enforcement would be focused on mobile application stores or Tiktok itself. 

Recently The Nugget requested comments from Helena High students about the TikTok controversy. Over 50 Helena High students responded. Of those, 63.5% said they currently had the app on their phones. 

According to those surveyed, 53.8 percent said Montana should not ban TikTok; 17.3 percent said Montana should ban TikTok; and 28.8 said they were undecided.


Montana’s bill to ban TikTok in the state was introduced by Senator Shelley Vance (R-Belgrade) of Senate District 34.  The bill would prohibit the app on mobile phones, provide penalties, and enforcement authority. Several concerns were cited in the bill’s language that allege surveillance by the Chinese government, stating, “the People’s Republic of China is an adversary of the United States and Montana and has an interest in gathering information about Montanans, Montana companies, and the intellectual property of users to engage in corporate and international espionage.”

Introduced on February 20, the bill passed the Senate on March 2 with a vote of 30 to 20 and the House on April 14 with a vote of 54 to 43. To track the bill, visit the MTFP Capitol Tracker.  

In the survey, Helena High students were asked “What is an argument for the ban? What is an argument against the ban? What is your overall opinion on the matter?” They gave permission to be quoted, and the following are their unedited replies:

Sophomore Isaac Loftis wrote, “TikTok supposedly promotes genocide and sells information to the Chinese government which owns TikTok parent company ByteDance which can’t legally speak about what China does with said app and information.” 

Senior Thomas Whitaker said the “concerns of the handling of users’ data” has posed the biggest concern to Americans.

Sophomore Clara Harmon stated she has frequently heard that “TikTok is being used by the Chinese government to mine USA data (specifically biometric data) for their own purposes and banning TikTok would help stop it.”

Junior Caili Lowney brought attention to the systemic racism within the Asian community, which has affected the conversation regarding TikTok. Comments like “it’s dangerous because it’s Chinese” only add fuel to the problem, she noted.  

One student also wrote, “TikTok has ruined what is an already fading attention span across the U.S.” 

Helena High students also voiced arguments in support of the platform. Junior Joanna Johnson noted the importance of the online community that “connects people with similar interests or groups of people that can be characterized by their religion, race, and any disabilities they may have.” 

One student commented on the hypocrisy regarding the legislation stating, “many other applications and websites are doing the exact same thing as [TikTok], yet lawmakers don’t bat an eye towards those platforms.” 

Another student noted, “America is a free country and how can the government implementing this ban make sure people dont have tiktok on their phones – they can’t therefore this ban is stupid.” 

As of the date of this writing and according to CNN Business, there still is no public evidence that China has harvested TikTok’s commercial data for intelligence or other purposes.  

Although TikTok doesn’t operate in China, the Chinese government oversees Bytedance and thus TikTok “could be forced to cooperate with a broad range of security activities, including possibly the transfer of TikTok date,” CNN Business went on to note.

Commenting on the TikTok legislation in a statement to BBC News, a TikTok spokesperson said that 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.” 

The spokesperson went on to say, “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.”

HHS students furthered their conversation regarding TikTok with additional comments: Senior Jeric Thrash stated, “The Supreme Court is supposed to uphold the values of the constitution, this ban on a social media outlet would not only go against our right as American citizens to express our rights of free speech but would ultimately cast a downfall on our nation.”

Junior James Kampen believes that the United States government is in a position similar to that of the “Big Brother” presence in the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell. Stating the US is conveying the novel’s idea, “no one can make fun of you except for me,” except it’s: “no one can steal and use your information except for me.” 

Sophomore Angie Eads stated, “I think [the ban] could be beneficial, however, it is now so involved in our lives that it would cause an uproar. the government should be focusing on more pressing issues instead of a social media app.” 

Junior Matthew Velasquez noted, “Choosing to ban TikTok is motivated by fear of losing control of users, specifically younger users. With the exposure of issues involving race, gun violence, abortion rights and LGBTQIA+ rights.”

When asked about practical solutions for the problem, students offered their ideas:

  • Senior Emily Hintz wrote, “There’s no way to effectively control social media, if we wanted to regulate something as chaotic as the internet, it would’ve already been done. it’s too late to go back, so the only solution would be to let these apps die and hope people abandon them.” 
  • Eren, a Senior, simply gave the idea, “Just raise the age limit but don’t ban it entirely.” 

Junior Delanie Walter stated, “I do believe that it may be a security problem and I don’t deny the fact that China probably is stealing information, however, if the government can only send out thoughts and prayers to the children who lose their lives in school shootings, they can send thoughts and prayers to the people losing information through tiktok.” She went on to say, “If you can ban tiktok you can ban gun usage.”  

Senior Dalton Hudoba slyly noted, “I think it would be funny to see my sisters face if it gets banned.” 

Freshman Kaysen Shaw said, “Banning TikTok won’t solve all our problems, but it might start solving some.” 

So whether you agree with this legislation or not, share your thoughts and voice your opinions–because time is ticking.