Montana has become the first US state to ban TikTok after its governor signed a law banning mobile app stores from offering the app in the state for next year.
The move is one of the sharpest in a series of US escalations against TikTok, which is owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance. TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny over its ties to China, amid concerns that such ties could threaten national security.
The federal government and more than half of US states have banned the app from government devices, and the Biden administration has threatened a nationwide ban unless its parent company sells its shares.
The company has previously denied sharing data with the Chinese government, saying it would not do so if asked.
TikTok said in a statement that the Montana bill “violates the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok” and that the company intends to “protect the rights of our users on the mountain and beyond.”
In March, TikTok CEO Shu Zichu was forced to defend his company’s relationship with China at a congressional hearing where lawmakers also questioned the CEO about the social network’s impact on the mental health of young people.
TikTok is one of the most popular social networks in the world, with more than 100 million US users, and questions remain about how these bans will be enforced and how the platform’s creators will be affected.
Montana’s new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, bans TikTok downloads in the state and fines any “facility” — app store or TikTok — $10,000 a day for each time someone “offers you” access. social media platform or download the app. Sanctions will not apply to customers.
Montana’s ban is expected to face legal challenges and serve as a testing ground for the TikTok-free America that many national lawmakers have envisioned.
Gianforte also banned the use of all social media applications that collect and share personal information or data with foreign adversaries on government-provided devices. Among the apps it listed are WeChat, whose parent company is based in China, and Telegram Messenger, which was founded in Russia.
Opponents of the measure call it overreach and say Montana residents could circumvent the ban by using a virtual private network, a service that protects Internet users by encrypting their data traffic, preventing others from monitoring their web browsing. Meanwhile, Internet freedom advocates and others criticized the US move as censorship.
Keegan Medrano, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Montana, said the legislature “crushed the free speech rights of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information and run small businesses.” “In the name of anti-Chinese sentiment.”
NetChoice, a trade group that counts Google and TikTok among its members, called the bill unconstitutional.
“This clearly violates the Constitution, which prohibits the government from blocking Americans’ access to constitutionally protected online speech through websites or apps,” said Cluster Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo.
Source: El Diario