The TikTok Wars are on in the world of social media, as Montana recently added its name to the list of organizations that have banned or plan to restrict the popular app’s use. Now TikTok is striking back against the state of Montana with a lawsuit of their own.
In an effort to “protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana,” said the state’s governor, Greg Gianforte, who signed the bill that is set to take effect in January of 2024.
The bill prohibits TikTok from operating “within the territorial jurisdiction of Montana,” and mandates that mobile app stores refrain from making the option to download the app available to residents of their state.
The proposed law would not penalize individual users, but would impose fines of $10,000 per violation per day on app store operators, or TikTok itself, if a user in the state’s jurisdiction accesses TikTok or is offered the opportunity to do so.
There is a caveat. The ban is automatically voided if TikTok cuts off its ties to ByteDance – the Chinese parent company that currently owns TikTok – providing the new owner isn’t located in a nation that could be construed as a “foreign adversary.”
Montana may be the first state to pass a complete ban on TikTok, but other states have imposed restrictions, particularly on university or government sponsored devices. Debate has also taken place at the federal level, with some support for a ban coming from both sides of the partisan fence. In 2020, the country of India banned TikTok’s use nationwide, citing security concerns.
Critics of TikTok have long warned that the Chinese-owned app can be used to siphon hoards of personal information from unsuspecting users, and is not just an invasion of privacy but a threat to individual and national security.
TikTok emphatically denies such allegations. And it is unclear whether Montana’s ban will withstand inevitable legal challenges and come to fruition. But TikTok isn’t waiting to find out. The platform that shot to astronomical popularity featuring the creation and sharing of short-form content, is suing the state of Montana, claiming infringement on freedom of speech and violating its citizens’ First Amendment rights.
As the battle rages on, over a billion people worldwide continue to use the controversial app. Is Montana’s ban the first in a wave of protest that will eventually eliminate it from US social media altogether? Or will the popular app prevail? Read more about Montana’s ruling here and TikTok’s countersuit here.