World News

Montana Will Be The First US State To Ban TikTok

May 18, 2023 / By Zunair Tahir / World News

In an effort to shield citizens from Chinese espionage, the Montana governor passes legislation banning TikTok in the state.

Montana became the first US state to outlaw the well-known short video app when Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation on Wednesday banning Chinese-owned TikTok from functioning there in order to safeguard people from suspected Chinese intelligence collection.

Montana will ban Google and Apple’s app stores from offering TikTok within the state, but it won’t punish users who still use the program. The prohibition, which is set to go into force on January 1st, 2024, will almost certainly run afoul of the law.

ByteDance, a Chinese software company that owns TikTok, declined to comment when asked by Reuters whether it intended to take legal action.

In a previous statement, TikTok claimed that the new legislation “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” and that it would “continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

Over 150 million Americans use TikTok, but there have been increasing calls from US politicians and state authorities to outright outlaw the app due to alleged Chinese government influence over the service.

Teenagers have adopted the app in record numbers. 67% of US youths between the ages of 13 and 17 use TikTok, and 16% of all teens say they use the app fairly daily, according to the Pew Research Centre. According to TikTok, the “vast majority” of its users are older than 18.

Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, was questioned by a congressional committee in March about whether the Chinese government could access user data or affect what Americans saw on the app. However, efforts to outlaw TikTok worldwide or provide the Biden administration greater authority to impose restrictions or outlaw TikTok have not gained traction in Congress.

Republican Gianforte said the legislation will advance “our shared priority to protect Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.”

TikTok has always denied sharing data with the Chinese government and stated that it would not do so if requested.

TikTok may be subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day if it continues to breach the restriction, according to Montana, which has a population of little over 1 million. Fines might also be assessed for each infraction.

On Apple Inc. and Google device app stores, the quick video app is available for download. If they break the law, Apple and Google, a division of Alphabet Inc., may also be hit with fines of $10,000 per infraction, per day.

Requests for comment from Apple and Google did not immediately receive a response.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) denounced the bill as “unconstitutional” and pointed out that, if the courts do not intervene, it will take effect on January 1.

Carl Szabo, general counsel for the business association NetChoice, also berated the new regulation. He said in a statement: “The government may not block our ability to access constitutionally protected speech – whether it is in a newspaper, on a website, or via an app.” He added that Montana “ignores the US Constitution, due process, and free speech.”

Gianforte also outlawed the use of any social media applications that gather and provide personal information or data to foreign adversaries on state government-issued devices. He had hoped to persuade the state legislature to extend the ban to other social media applications that provide specific data to foreign adversaries.

Project Texas, a project being worked on by TikTok, establishes a stand-alone corporation to keep user data from American users on US servers run by US tech giant Oracle.


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