TikTok ban: Montana makes the first move among states in the US

Experts do not see the ban standing legal scrutiny and have called it "technically stupid".
Ameya Paleja
Tik Tok faces an existential crisis in Montana, could other states follow?
Tik Tok faces an existential crisis in Montana, could other states follow?

5./15 WEST/iStock 

Montana became the first state in the U.S. to ban the social media platform Tik-Tok for all users after Governor Greg Gianforte signed the legislation, The Guardian reported. The ban will come into effect on January 1 next year.

The U.S. tussle with TikTok has been ongoing since 2020, when former President Donald Trump tried to ban it in the country. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance has been under the scanner for its alleged ties with the government in China, which is seen as a threat to national security in the U.S.

Trump had also attempted to ban WeChat, another app owned by a Chinese company, but the U.S. courts foiled attempts.

Will Montana's decision be upheld in the courts?

Trump and Gianforte haven't been the only people concerned about how hugely popular the app is in the U.S. With 100 million users, and there is a TikTok account for every one in three U.S. citizens, making lawmakers jittery.

President Joe Biden has also led the federal effort to ban the app on government devices, and more than half of the states have followed suit. Governor Gianforte was toeing the line of personal privacy to support his decision and banned the app for all users in the state.

TikTok has denied that it has ever shared data of users with the Chinese government and is firm on not doing so in the future. The Montana ban comes at a time when it is also being forced to sell its shares in the U.S. or face a national ban, The Guardian reported. In a statement, the company has called the Montana ban "unlawful" and declared its intent to fight legally and "defend the rights of (its) users".

Experts believe that in the courts, the ban will likely face the same outcome as Trump's previous attempt since it impinges on users' right to free speech by denying them access to a website or app.

Digital rights activist Cindy Cohn also told Quartz that privacy concerns about social media must be addressed with "comprehensive privacy protections," and there was no reason to single TikTok out while others went scot-free. Regarding the Chinese government accessing user data, there are multiple avenues where it can avail, and it does not need TikTok.

The ban, which comes into effect on January 1 next year, will only apply to users within the geographical limits of the state and imposes a fine of $10,000 a day on TikTok and app stores for Android and iOS systems. Users who are not liable for any penalty can easily by-passed imposed limitations using virtual private networks (VPNs).

A senior fellow at The Council of Foreign Relations called the bill "technically stupid" in a recent interview with The Atlantic.

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