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Montana lawmakers pass TikTok ban

By | Published on Monday 17 April 2023


The political pressure on TikTok continues to mount with the US state of Montana passing legislation seeking to ban use of the video-sharing app.

Politicians in multiple countries have raised concerns that the Chinese government has access to TikTok user data via its China-based owner Bytedance. TikTok strongly denies that is the case, but a number of governments and a few media organisations around the world have now banned their employees from using the app on official work devices.

Meanwhile, some politicians have been busy calling for much more wide-ranging restrictions on TikTok use, including maybe following India’s lead in instigating an out-right ban.

When then US President Donald Trump tried that back in 2020, his proposed ban stalled amid legal challenges in the courts. But there is now cross party support in US Congress for changing the law to clarify current President Joe Biden’s powers in this domain.

Meanwhile, law-makers in Montana are seeking to constrain the use of TikTok at a state level. The proposed new law there – which has passed both chambers of the state legislature but needs governor approval – would specifically stop new downloads of the app from the Apple and Android app stores.

Supporters of the new law cite both the usual data security concerns and also TikTok’s alleged failure to deal with some harmful content, such as videos encouraging people to take part in “dangerous activities”.

Quite how the ban would work in practical terms isn’t clear, though it would be app store operators and TikTok that would be fined if the app continued to be downloaded, not individual users.

The plan is for the ban to go into effect at the start of next year, though there will likely be legal challenges before then arguing that the new law is unconstitutional, as happened with the Trump ban in 2020.

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter says: “The bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalising this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts. We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach”.