The US state of Montana has become the first to officially ban TikTok. On Wednesday, Republican Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed the ban into law,
The move marks the start of a legal battle which will go all the way to Washington, where Congress is debating a nationwide ban.
“To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” Gianforte wrote on Twitter. “Today I directed the state’s Chief Information Officer to ban any application that provides personal information or data to foreign adversaries from the state network.”
TikTok is owned by Chinese internet technology company ByteDance. US lawmakers say that the video platform, which is used by some 150 million Americans, is allowing Beijing to spy on US citizens. TikTok has always denied such claims.
To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) May 17, 2023
In mid-April, the Montana parliament adopted a text ordering mobile application stores, such as the App Store and Play Store, to no longer distribute TikTok to Montanans from 1 January 2024. The platforms risk fines of 10,000 per day for failing to pull the applications.
A TikTok spokesperson has reacted strongly to the ban, stating that the law “infringes on the rights of the citizens of Montana”, notably the freedom of speech, which is enshrined in the US Constitution. The company intends to challenge the law in court.
“The constitutionality of this text will be decided in the courts. We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana,” the spokesperson added.
Other than privacy concerns, lawmakers have expressed concern about the harmful impact of the application on young users. Opponents to a nationwide ban argue that, if regulations were to be placed on TikTok, they would also need to apply to platforms such as Facebook and Instagram as well.
BREAKING: The Montana governor just signed a law that bans TikTok for everyone in the state, violating the free speech rights of hundreds of thousands of people in Montana who use the app.If the courts don't act, the ban will go into effect January 1, 2024. — ACLU (@ACLU) May 17, 2023
The ACLU, a powerful human rights lobby within the US, has accused the State of Montana of censorship.
“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature are trampling on the freedom of speech of hundreds of thousands of Montana residents who use this app to express themselves, find information and promote their small businesses, in favour of anti-Chinese sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, an official with Montana’s ACLU branch.
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The Federal Government wants to push the Chinese company to sell to a US or third country in order to continue to operate in America. This would invalidate the newly signed Montana state law.
US President Joe Biden is considering several bills in Congress which are aimed at banning the application.