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FutureStarrMontana Bans TikTok - A Sign of Increasing Government Control Over Social Media
Montana law that mandates mobile app stores to block downloads of TikTok video platform is anticipated to face legal challenges from supporters who claim its Chinese owners could hand user data over to Beijing; ByteDance admitted employees inappropriately accessed data of journalists investigating allegations about them. TikTok’s Ownership TikTok, an app used for video-recording and sharing, was banned on state government devices after concerns that it might expose personal data and expose personal information to foreign adversaries. He called for this ban due to ByteDance's ownership by Chinese company ByteDance's trackers who track users keystrokes as part of pushing pro-Beijing propaganda. On Wednesday, Montana governor Steve Bullock signed into law a bill making TikTok illegal in Montana and banning mobile app stores like Apple's App Store and Google Play from selling or offering the app to residents there. Furthermore, fines of $10,000 per day were imposed for those found violating this ban, such as companies found hosting it; this legislation however will not impact Montana's more than 7,000 TikTok employees or nearly 6 million users of its app. This ban, should it survive legal challenges, will be the first of its kind in the US and demonstrates governments are increasingly placing digital barriers between people and services for safety and security. While the law will take several months to take effect, leaving an important loophole that allows TikTok to escape by distancing itself from ByteDance or finding another owner. Legal experts have voiced serious reservations over the constitutionality of this ban, saying it could violate free speech rights and lead to its eventual overturn. But proponents argue that national security and public safety concerns justify its implementation; according to The Wall Street Journal's reports, several states and federal governments have already banned it from their devices. Apart from constitutional considerations, there are other concerns with the ban that go beyond constitutional issues, including immediate and costly legal challenges to its enforcement. It remains to be seen how courts would react; for example how many would issue injunctions to ensure apps stay available while legal disputes play out; it remains to be seen how it would be enforced; how it will impact companies that work closely with government agencies (for instance those operating nuclear power plants or providing security services at airports or other secure facilities); whether companies would still operate freely in these facilities and so forth. It’s Linked to China Montana's TikTok ban may set a precedent if it stands up in court. On Wednesday, Montana's Republican-controlled chamber approved a bill preventing TikTok downloads on personal devices within its borders, app stores such as Apple and Google from offering TikTok as marketplace listings, and allows the state to punish anyone found violating by imposing up to $10,000 daily fines against violators. Supporters of the ban argue it is necessary, believing the Chinese company that owns TikTok could hand user data over to Beijing or use the app for propaganda purposes. They cite Chinese laws requiring tech companies to cooperate with government regulations as evidence, while ByteDance admitted its employees inappropriately accessed data of journalists investigating leaks about TikTok. TikTok spokespeople in the United States have denounced Gov. Greg Gianforte's ban of its app on state government devices last year as "egregious government overreach", vowing to fight it. She noted how this bill affects millions of users - such as many small businesses in Montana which depend on TikTok to promote their products - including millions in Montana who rely on it. She pointed out how millions more users will also be negatively impacted and noted it poses "significant risk" to sensitive information security posed by Gov. Gianforte when he banned its usage by state government devices last year citing potential risks to sensitive information security risks for sensitive information storing devices - this bill puts millions more users and businesses from advertising their products through TikTok's platform and promised they'd fight against it vigorously. TikTok and state lawyers have warned against an outright ban, as this would violate users' rights under the First Amendment to free speech and privacy. Furthermore, they assert it's unlikely any ban would actually be implemented -- should that happen, the state would likely face significant legal ramifications. Axios reached out to the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) and its representatives to inquire what investigation methods will be employed when enforcing its ban, and whether device manufacturers or ISPs would be forced to enforce compliance from customers. A representative for Governor Bullock declined comment. It’s a Business Montana may be the first state to ban TikTok, and its move could set a nationwide precedent. Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation on Wednesday that prohibits its operation within Montana's borders and any mobile app stores offering downloads; additionally, this law threatens a $10,000 fine each day TikTok remains available. The bill cites legitimate concerns that TikTok is owned by China, giving Beijing access to personal data of Montanans or being used as an instrument of pro-Beijing propaganda, but critics counter with claims based on falsehood or misrepresentation. Critics contend it relies on false or misleading claims; critics also point out it will take effect January 2018. The ACLU of Montana has already indicated it will challenge it; its policy director says it tramples on free speech rights while making monitoring online activities harder by using virtual private networks or similar services which encrypt data traffic - something critics accuse it does. Uncertain of how the state will enforce the ban - the harshest prohibition on the app in any U.S. state - it reflects lawmakers' growing distaste for Vine, an app renowned for fun videos showing people from other parts of the globe dancing or doing strange things, which has quickly become a rival of Instagram (via Snapchat and Meta). TikTok has been singled out as the focus of these moves; however, other states have passed similar bans that limit its usage on university campuses or government-issued devices; furthermore, federal employees face limited restrictions regarding using TikTok app. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress to address their concerns, however they seemed unaffected by his explanations of their business model and protection of user privacy offered by TikTok app. Experts predict that Montana's ban will likely face legal challenges and, if upheld, could encourage other states to implement similar restrictions. But this law stands as an alarming symbol of increased government oversight of Americans' access to the internet; other companies should take note as it could soon target them with similar legislation. It’s a Tool Montana officials join an increasing chorus of state and federal officials concerned that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, could be used by its government to monitor citizen activities. They fear the video-sharing app might allow China access to American data or push pro-Beijing propaganda that may impact public opinion; although the company denies these allegations. Some House members from both parties have introduced legislation that would prevent children under the age of 13 from using popular apps like TikTok and Instagram. Although such restrictions might not pass, their introduction shows legislators are paying attention to concerns over how these applications are being utilized by young people. Two senators from both parties introduced legislation earlier this year in the Senate that would require social media companies to remove posts promoting terrorism, violence or hate speech from social media sites; it would also ban under-13 users from sharing videos from these websites. Although it remains uncertain if such legislation will make it to a vote at present, its introduction shows legislators' desire to take a hardline stance against how social media companies monitor user behavior. Montana's new law mandates mobile app stores such as those run by Apple and Google to discontinue offering TikTok downloads within its borders, as well as ByteDance for continuing to offer it in Montana. If they continue doing so, fines of $10,000 a day may be levied against both firms and ByteDance respectively. TikTok and free speech advocates have decried Montana law as an instance of government overreach, charging that it violates First Amendment rights of residents who rely on the app for running small businesses and connecting with fellow Montanans. Keegan Medrano of ACLU Montana claims Gianforte's decision to ban TikTok violates hundreds of thousands of users who depend on TikTok for everything from running businesses to communicating amongst themselves.