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Montana Becomes the First US State to Ban TikTok

The ban, which is set to go into effect on January 1st, 2024, will almost certainly run afoul of the law

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

UNITED STATES: Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation on Wednesday to ban Chinese-owned TikTok from operating in the state to safeguard citizens from alleged Chinese intelligence gatherings, making it the first U.S. state to outlaw the well-known short video app.

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

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Earlier, TikTok released a statement in which it claimed that the new law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” and it vowed to “continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

TikTok boasts more than 150 million American users, but there have been increasing calls from state and federal officials to outlaw the app nationwide due to worries about possible Chinese government influence over the service.

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The app has become largely popular with teens. The Pew Research Centre reports that 16% of all teens use TikTok almost daily, with 67% of American teens aged 13 to 17 using the app. According to TikTok, its users are “the vast majority” of adults.

A congressional committee questioned Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, in March about whether the Chinese government had access to user data or could affect what Americans saw on the app. However, efforts to outlaw TikTok nationwide or grant the Biden administration greater authority to impose restrictions or outlaw TikTok have not made it far in Congress.

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

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

Montana, a state with a population of just over 1 million, says TikTok could be subject to fines for each violation or additional fines of up to $10,000 per day if it continues to breach the restriction.

The short video app is available to download from the app stores on Apple and Google devices. If they break the law, Apple and Google, a division of Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O), might potentially be fined $10,000 per infraction per day.

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

In a statement, Keegan Medrano, policy director at the ACLU of Montana, said that the ban “tramples on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small businesses in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment.”

Multiple courts rejected former President Donald Trump’s attempt to impose a ban on new TikTok and WeChat downloads through a Commerce Department order in 2020, so it never went into effect.

Several Democratic members of Congress, notably Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and First Amendment organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union are supporters of TikTok’s right to free speech.

Carl Szabo, chief counsel for the business association NetChoice, also criticised the new regulation. In a statement, he claimed that Montana “ignores the U.S. Constitution, due process, and free speech,” adding that “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.”

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 expand the ban to other social media applications that provide specific data to foreign adversaries.

TikTok is working on a project named Project Texas that establishes a stand-alone corporation to keep American user data in the U.S. on servers run by U.S. tech company Oracle.

Also Read: TikTok Profits from Selling of Potentially Harmful Beauty Products


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