Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has made history by signing legislation that effectively bans Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok from operating within the state.
The move comes amidst concerns about alleged intelligence gathering by China through the popular app, making Montana the first US state to take such action.
Protecting Residents from Alleged Intelligence Gathering
The TikTok ban aims to protect Montana residents from potential intelligence gathering activities conducted by the Chinese government.
The legislation makes it illegal for Google and Apple’s app stores to offer TikTok within the state, although no penalties will be imposed on individuals using the app.
The ban is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2024. However, it is expected to face legal challenges in the near future.
TikTok has gained immense popularity, particularly among teenagers.
According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of US teens aged 13 to 17 use TikTok, with 16% of them claiming to use the app almost constantly.
Despite concerns over the app’s data privacy and security practices, calls to ban TikTok nationwide or grant the Biden administration additional powers to regulate or prohibit its use have not advanced in Congress.
Montana’s Commitment to Protecting Citizens
Governor Gianforte, a Republican, stated that the ban on TikTok would further the state’s commitment to safeguarding Montanans from potential surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party.
The legislation outlines potential fines for TikTok and the app stores for violating the ban.
Reactions to the Ban
The new law has faced criticism from various quarters. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has deemed it unconstitutional and warned that it could infringe on free speech rights if the courts do not intervene before its implementation.
The ACLU argues that the ban restricts the free expression of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use TikTok for self-expression, gathering information, and running small businesses.
This is not the first time TikTok has faced attempts at a ban in the US.
Former President Donald Trump’s efforts to prohibit new downloads of TikTok and WeChat through a Commerce Department order in 2020 were thwarted by multiple court rulings. The bans were ultimately blocked and never enforced.
Continued Debate and Free Speech Advocacy
TikTok has garnered support from free speech advocates and several Democratic members of Congress, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Critics argue that the ban infringes on constitutionally protected speech and disregards due process. Industry group NetChoice also denounced the law, emphasizing the importance of access to constitutionally protected speech across various platforms.
Governor Gianforte had initially pushed for a broader ban on social media applications that share certain data with foreign adversaries.
While that proposal did not gain traction, he did manage to prohibit the use of all social media applications that collect and provide personal information to foreign adversaries on state government-issued devices.
TikTok’s Data Storage Initiative
Meanwhile, TikTok has been working on Project Texas, an initiative that aims to establish a standalone entity to store American user data within the US.
The data would be stored on servers operated by US tech company Oracle, further addressing concerns about data privacy and security.
As the legal battle unfolds and Montana becomes the first US state to ban TikTok, the future of the app’s operations within the state remains uncertain.
The outcome of potential legal challenges and ongoing discussions surrounding data privacy and national security will undoubtedly shape the landscape for TikTok and similar platforms moving forward.