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Montana Poised to Ban TikTok, Making it the First U.S. State to Take Action against the App


As the government weighs up a nationwide TikTok ban, Montana lawmakers on Friday passed a bill requiring app stores to stop carrying the app. The governor is expected to sign the measure.

The move is the furthest of any state that has passed legislation related to TikTok to prevent users from downloading the Chinese-owned video app. Under the bill, passed by a vote of 54 to 43, app stores will be banned from offering the app to Montana users, though people who already own the app will be able to continue using it. TikTok is also not allowed to operate in the state. It will come into force in 2024.

In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said that “proponents of the bill have admitted they have no viable plan to operationalize this effort to censor American votes.”

The measure is likely to be challenged. TikTok stressed that whether the measure is allowed under the constitution “will be decided by the courts”.

The looming legal battle can be seen as a test case of obstacles the government could face if it passes a nationwide TikTok ban. In addition to being difficult to enforce because it requires collaboration from third-party companies across the digital economy, the legislation likely implies First Amendment concerns. Courts have blocked previous attempts in 2020 to block TikTok.

Lawmakers have provided no evidence that TikTok has provided US user data to the Chinese government or that it is aimed at influencing the content users see on the platform.

The legislation points to national security risks because the app, owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, is under Chinese influence. It cites concerns that the app is collecting data about users in violation of users’ right to privacy.

“The People’s Republic of China exercises control and oversight over ByteDance, like other Chinese companies, and may direct the company to share user information, including users’ real-time physical locations,” the bill reads.

The measure also states that TikTok fails to remove and promote “content that incites minors to engage in dangerous activities”.

An initial draft of the bill appeared to force internet providers to block TikTok and included fines if they helped distribute the app. It was later removed.

It remains unclear how the ban can be enforced. Under the bill, fines will be imposed on app stores that continue to offer the app after 2024, as well as TikTok.

The bill’s approval comes less than a month after TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was called out by lawmakers over concerns about the app’s national security. He struggled largely to assuage concerns that the company poses a risk, escalating calls for a full ban or forced sale of the app.

Chinese officials have said they would oppose a forced sale of TikTok because it would involve the export of technology that must be approved by the government. As a private company, 60 percent of TikTok is owned by global institutional investors, 20 percent by founders, and 20 percent by employees. It has five board members, three of whom are American.

There are several bills in preparation by Congress that would take action against the app, including a White House-backed measure that would create a unified framework for assessing and addressing foreign technology. Under the measure, the Department of Commerce would have the authority to review, block or otherwise restrict a range of transactions involving foreign information and communications technology products and services.

In 2020, a federal judge blocked a government directive requiring Apple and Google to remove Tencent’s WeChat from their app stores. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler felt the injunction could infringe on users’ First Amendment rights by rendering the app unusable. She emphasized that the app is essential for communication.

Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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