Tiktok is under massive political pressure in the US – and is now being banned in a state for the first time. However, legal headwind for the law is expected.
Montana is the first US state to ban the video app Tiktok, which is increasingly seen as a security risk in America. The law, signed by Governor Greg Gianforte, would ban download platforms from offering the app from January 1, 2024. However, an appeal in court is expected, which could delay the entry into force of the law.
“In order to protect the personal and private information of the people of Montana from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned Tiktok in Montana,” Republican Gianforte tweeted after signing the law, which the state House of Representatives passed in April.
Users should not be penalized if they keep and use the app on their devices. In the northwestern state, however, Tiktok should no longer operate as a company. For every day that the app was still available, the app store operators and Tiktok would have to pay a $10,000 fine.
TikTok, which belongs to the Chinese internet group Bytedance, is under strong political pressure in the USA. President Joe Biden’s administration has already banned the app from government employees’ phones. An investigation has been ongoing for months that could lead to a nationwide ban on Tiktok without a change of ownership.
Beware of espionage
The background is concerns that Chinese authorities and secret services could collect information about Americans via Tiktok and influence them politically. At the end of March, Tiktok boss Shou Zi Chew had to answer questions in the US Congress. He met with distrust and rejection from Republican and Democratic MPs. Tiktok emphasizes that it has never received data requests from Chinese authorities and would not comply with such requests. The company is trying to persuade Washington to secure data storage in the United States.
Montana, with a population of just over a million, is the first state to have such a far-reaching law. Critics see the right to freedom of expression at risk. The actions of the authorities in Montana are therefore also considered a test for a possible ban throughout the USA. Technically, however, such a blockade should be easy to circumvent.
In a first reaction, Tiktok criticized that the ban violated the right to freedom of speech. We will work to protect the rights of users. The human rights organization ACLU warned that the law lay the basis for excessive state control over the Internet.
Tiktok has more than a billion users and is the most successful non-US online platform in western countries. The company emphasizes that it does not see itself as a subsidiary of a Chinese group. Bytedance is 60 percent owned by Western investors and the company is based in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. Critics counter that the Chinese founders held 20 percent of the control thanks to higher voting rights and that Bytedance has a large headquarters in Beijing.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.