The Republican Party-controlled Montana House of Representatives voted last week to ban TikTok statewide effective January 2024, becoming the first state to take such action against the Chinese app as its future in the US remains uncertain.
Last month, US House lawmakers on both sides questioned TikTok CEO Show Zi Chu about the company’s ties to China and the security of its user data in the US. And there is growing momentum for national action against TikTok.
This week alone, 17 Republicans in the US Congress wrote a letter Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Administrative Panel asking for rules to prevent lawmakers from using the platform to communicate with voters, calling TikTok a “de facto spy app.” Political report.
TikTok is owned by China’s ByteDance and may be forced to hand over user data to the government under Chinese law, US lawmakers have warned. Critics of TikTok also argue that the platform could be used to promote and influence American public opinion on issues such as a potential conflict between China and Taiwan.
The company is incredibly popular in the US, with a registered US user base of over 150 million, and any attempts to ban it are likely to face legal and political backlash. It’s unclear if there will be a Montana bill that has yet to be signed into law by the governor. Greg Gianforte (right) – enforceable and how the state will control it. But if it goes into effect, it could serve as a key example of what could happen next across the country.
Montana’s ban will become law 10 days after it is passed on April 14 unless Gianforte blocks it. He has not announced his plans yet, though signed the law a ban on TikTok on government devices last year.
TikTok has criticized Montana’s latest bill as an attempt to “censor the American voice” and said the state does not have a “workable plan” for a ban.
“We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana, whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are at risk due to this flagrant abuse of government authority,” the company said in a statement.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, whose office wrote the bill, told The New York Times he expects the ban to be challenged in court and hopes the Supreme Court will ultimately decide his fate.
“I think this is the next frontier in First Amendment jurisprudence that should probably come from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Knudsen said.
While it’s hard to predict what the Supreme Court’s conservative overwhelming majority will do, prohibitionists will face an “uphill battle” over the strong protections offered by the First Amendment, said Caitlin Chin, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. .
What does Montana’s ban do?
V check states that TikTok cannot operate in Montana. It also imposes a fine on TikTok and mobile app stores such as the Apple App Store if they allow users to download or access the platform.
The bill accuses TikTok of allowing the posting and even distribution of “dangerous content that encourages minors to engage in dangerous activities,” such as encouraging people to cook chicken at NyQuil. The bill states that TikTok “threatens the health and safety of Montana residents.”
Montana law also warns that the app can be used to spy on and locate journalists and politicians who could be targeted by the Chinese Communist Party.
The law will only be repealed if TikTok is sold to another company that is not registered in a country declared an enemy by the US.
China has previously expressed objection to the idea of a TikTok forced sale. A spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry told reporters last month that the move “would cause serious harm to investors from several countries, including China.”
How did the tiktokers react?
Montana resident Shona White Bear, who used TikTok to promote her leather moccasin business. touted by the company as an example of how it benefits small businessesexpressed shock at the statewide prohibition law.
She said U.S.-owned platforms like Facebook could also be misused, and the TikTok spinoff shows that Montana lawmakers are not well informed on the issue.
“If a generation that doesn’t understand the app votes for this, I don’t know if they should be making such important decisions,” Polar Bear. said CBS News affiliate KTVQ.
TikTok has urged its users to write to the governor to express their opposition to the ban and use the #MTLovesTikTok hashtag to educate their followers on what’s going on in the state.
“I think they are trying to convey the message that if TikTok is banned tomorrow, it will not be the Chinese government that will suffer, but TikTok users,” Chin said.
What are the technological problems of law enforcement?
One of the first versions of the bill provided for a fine for ISPs that allowed people to download and access TikTok. But lawmakers changed the text after an AT&T spokesman said while ISPs can grant users access to the Internet, they cannot control their activities.
The final version of the bill places the responsibility for enforcing the rule on mobile app stores.
But TechNet, a group that includes top tech companies like Apple and Google, has warned that enforcement of the Montana-only ban could be a challenge.
Knudsen disputed this argument. during an interview with Yahoo Finance Livestating that companies have been able to work out enforcement of sports and betting apps based on different state rules.
“This is the technology that exists,” Knudsen said. “There is a methodology. I understand that Apple and Google may not like this because they get a lot of Chinese money from TikTok. But that doesn’t change the fact that that’s how we’re going to enforce that rule.”
Another major problem with the bill’s enforcement is that users can easily bypass the state ban by using a virtual private network or VPN to change their IP address to make it look like they’re in a different location.
State Representative Cathy Sullivan (D) amended this would replace the ban with a rule preventing all social media companies from sharing U.S. user data with foreign adversaries, but that didn’t work.
Chin noted that even if TikTok is banned, many users will still post TikTok videos on other social media platforms such as Instagram and Youtube, which is another problem with the app being completely removed from the state.
What is the significance of this nationwide ban?
Chin said the Biden administration will likely monitor developments in Montana and the reactions of citizens and voters as it considers its own moves.
Former President Donald Trump launched his efforts to effectively ban TikTok through an executive order in Aug 2020 and again in January 2021. But push failed in courtPresident Joe Biden reply orders in 2021.
The White House avoids assessing TikTok by referring questions to the US Committee on Foreign Investment, which reviews foreign deals involving US companies on national security grounds. The committee reportedly called on TikTok’s Chinese owners to either sell their stake in the company or risk a nationwide ban.
“I do think what’s happening in Montana could definitely portend what could happen across the country if Congress or the Biden administration tries to push for a broader TikTok ban,” Chin said.