Lawmakers in Washington are pushing for an outright ban of TikTok on American soil. Montana might beat them to it, The New York Times reported.
The state’s legislature is further along than any other body in the United States to passing a Ban of the popular Chinese-owned video app, which has faced scrutiny for whether it is handling sensitive data about Americans to Beijing. A Montana bill to block the app was introduced in February, and the State Senate approved it last month. The State House, where the bill has a strong chance of passing after two more votes, is scheduled to consider it on Thursday.
According to The New York Times, the proposal has encountered obstacles. A major internet provider said it could not block TikTok in Montana, prompting lawmakers to rewrite the legislation. A trade group funded by Apple and Google, which operate the app stores that would be forbidden to carry the app, also declared that it was impossible for the companies to prevent access to TikTok in a single state.
The New York Times also reported that TikTok has pushed its users to oppose the legislation by calling and emailing Montana’s Republican governor, Greg Gianforte. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gianforte said he would “carefully consider any bill the Legislature sends to his desk” and noted that he had already banned TikTok on state devices.
The fight in Montana is a preview of what the United States might confront at a national level if lawmakers or the White House tries to enact a nationwide ban of TikTok. Even if legislation disallowing the app is passed, The New York Times wrote, carrying out a ban is technologically difficult and would invoke companies across the digital economy.
Montana State Representative, Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat, said in an interview that it was possible that TikTok users could disguise their location to maintain access to the app even after a ban, which could also be hard to enforce in border towns where internet connections may involve cellular towers in another state.
NBC News reported that leading human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have long been critical of the Chinese government and its policies. But the groups are lining up against a proposed U.S. TikTok ban, despite the fact that the app’s parent company is Chinese, saying that eliminating a major platform for public expression won’t fix Beijing’s civil rights record or secure American’s privacy.
According to NBC News, the American Civil Liberties Union has used their TikTok account to answer users’ questions about the proposed ban and urged them to reach out to members of Congress to protest HR 1153, a House bill that would impose new restrictions on TikTok and other social media companies around how Americans’ personal data is handled.
In a Pew survey released last week, the largest share, 46%, of young Americans ages 18 to 29 opposed a ban. Just 29% of that demographic said they supported a ban and 24% weren’t sure. By comparison, roughly half of U.S. adults overall said they wanted TikTok banned, with 22% opposed and 28% undecided.
Personally, I don’t use TikTok. However, it is clear that many other people – especially young people – do use it. I was surprised to see that various human rights organizations are in favor of preventing a ban on TikTok, considering that the app is made by a Chinese company.