Montana Becomes First U.S. State to Ban TikTok, Sparking Legal Challenges

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Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has signed a bill that prohibits Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from operating in the state, making Montana the first U.S. state to ban the popular short video app. The legislation aims to protect residents from alleged intelligence gathering by China through TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance.

The ban, set to take effect from January 1, 2024, will make it illegal for Google and Apple’s app stores to offer TikTok within the state, with potential fines of $10,000 per day if the app is found to be hosted on these platforms. While the move is expected to face legal challenges, it reflects growing concerns among U.S. lawmakers and officials over the app’s potential ties to the Chinese government and its ability to access information on American citizens. Some lawmakers, as well as the FBI and other agencies, worry that TikTok could be used to push pro-Beijing misinformation or influence the public. However, TikTok has vehemently denied these allegations and claims that there have been no instances of such behavior.

The ban has drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argues that it violates the free speech rights of Montana residents who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and operate their small businesses. The ACLU has deemed the ban unconstitutional and plans to challenge it. It is worth noting that previous attempts to ban TikTok at the national level, initiated by former President Donald Trump through an executive order, were halted in federal courts. While President Joe Biden’s administration initially shelved these plans, there have been recent threats to ban the app if ByteDance does not divest its ownership stake. TikTok currently boasts over 150 million American users, with a significant portion being teenagers.

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