Some local businesses disheartened by potential statewide TikTok … – NBC Montana
by Dominic Vitiello
MISSOULA, Mont. — State lawmakers are considering a bill aimed at banning the social media app TikTok statewide for Montanans.
Many small businesses that rely on TikTok for marketing don’t want to see it go, saying it’s changed their lives.
“I designed a hoodie with all the names of the Montanans that were killed in action in order to raise awareness and posted it on TikTok, and then I like sold $6,000 worth of sweatshirts really quickly, it's crazy the amount of people and just the connection that you can create,” said Fredrick Baker, the owner of Metal Tech and Hoodies for Heroes. “TikTok is a tool just like a hammer like a screwdriver. It's all in how you use it, right, just like anything in the world, the possibilities are endless.”
Record, post and promote are the simple steps for businesses like Baker’s to flourish.
In Missoula, the Confident Stitch used TikTok to reach a greater audience and grow its business.
“When I first started working here, you know, we would maybe get like a dozen orders a week, probably, and now, on a slow week, it’s three times that, and I think since then we've gained a lot of traction,” Confident Stitch store manager Maisie Gospodarek said.
Access to TikTok could one day be cut off for Montanans and local businesses.
The state legislature is debating Senate Bill 419, a measure aiming to ban TikTok and prevent app stores from offering it to Montana users.
“I would say that this is trying to ban TikTok is sort of censorship at its finest form. (TikTok is) a great way for businesses to kind of like throw a line out there and just introduce people to things that they didn't even know they were missing,” Gospodarek said.
SB 419 already passed the Montana Senate and cleared committee in the House.
Supporters say the ban is needed to prevent the Chinese government from using the app to gather information about Americans against their will.
Late last year, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte prohibited the use of TikTok on state equipment and for state business, saying the use of TikTok on state devices poses a significant risk to the security of the state.
“Government’s chief responsibility is keeping its citizens safe and secure. Use of TikTok on state devices poses a significant risk to the security of our state and Montanans’ sensitive data. Given these grave security concerns, effective immediately, no executive agency, board, commission, or other executive branch entity, official, or employee of the State of Montana shall download or access TikTok on government-issued devices or while connected to the state network,” Gianforte said.
Yet opposition to SB 419 remains strong.
“I understand government banning it on sensitive government devices. That makes sense. But to ban it to the general public, to me, is high overreach,” said State Sen. Jeremy Trebas (R-Great Falls).
TikTok chief operating officer V Pappas issued the following statement on SB 419: "Every day, Montanans come to TikTok to learn something new, to share their voice and creativity, to chronicle Montana's natural beauty, and to help build their businesses. This piece of legislation is an egregious violation of Montanans' free speech rights, and it will close off Montana from the 100 million strong TikTok community in the United States. We hope that Montana legislators will consider those serious consequences—and the disastrous precedent they're setting—and weigh them against the deeply flawed arguments put forward to justify this ban."
If passed, financial penalties for everyone who violates the bill would be $10,000 for each violation plus $10,000 each day the violation continues.
“There are a lot of small businesses that kind of operate via TikTok, and like smaller than this don't have a storefront, work out of their homes, things like that, and I think it would be detrimental to a lot of people,” Gospodarek said.