ripple effect? The first country to block TikTok

ripple effect? The first country to block TikTok
ripple effect? The first country to block TikTok

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte tonight (Thursday) signed the state’s most severe restrictions against the Chinese social network app TikTok, banning the use of the app in the state starting in January 2024.

TikTok has faced increasing pressure in the US from the US Congress and state legislatures in recent months, but Montana’s actions are a significant first step against the app, even if the issue of enforcement remains an open question.

“Today, Montana is taking the most decisive action of any state to protect the private data and sensitive personal information of Montanans from the Chinese Communist Party,” Gianforte said.

In an official statement, Gianforte claimed that the fact that TikTok shares the data with the Chinese government is “well documented” – a claim that is not based on public information about the app and how it works.

While there is no evidence that TikTok or parent company ByteDance ever shared the app’s information with the Chinese government, TikTok has acknowledged an incident in which employees spied on journalists’ locations using app data — a scandal that has often overshadowed conversations around apps and privacy concerns.

Lawmakers in Montana unveiled a bill to block TikTok earlier this year, sparking debate over the ban and other proposals to limit the use of the app in the US. While restrictions on the use of TikTok on government devices and campus networks are already in place, the app block is intended to block app stores from distributing the app to any user within the state

This is a giant step towards a new kind of internet – one where countries are increasingly erecting digital barriers in the name of safety and security. The law states that no penalties apply to TikTok users. But app store operators and TikTok itself could face fines of $10,000 per violation per day, with an individual violation defined as “every time a user accesses TikTok, they are offered the option to access TikTok or are offered the option to download TikTok.”

Will it even be feasible? It remains to be discovered. Google and Apple are expected to reject state-level laws restricting where apps can be downloaded within the US, as they would have to deal with the logistical nightmare of additional state legislatures working on their own bans against TikTok or other apps. TikTok’s users are also likely to oppose it, the company has already leveraged its passionate user base to oppose the law in Montana, but appears to have failed.

There’s a lot of uncertainty about how this will play out, but the only certainty is that Montana’s new law will face some strong challenges in court in the coming months.

TikTok US spokeswoman Brooke Overrotter responded in a statement on Twitter: “Governor Gianforte signed a bill that violates the First Amendment rights of Montanans by illegally banning TikTok, a platform that empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state,” wrote Overrotter. We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue to use TikTok to express themselves, make a living, and find community, while we continue to work to protect the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

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