The US state of Montana is preparing to ban TikTok. In addition to espionage, MEPs also bring up privacy and the protection of minors.
The Montana House of Representatives has passed legislation banning the Chinese-developed social media app TikTok. If Montana’s governor signs the law into law, which is likely, the ban would go into effect in January. The new rule would ban app stores from offering the app and TikTok would no longer be allowed to operate as a business in the northwestern state. Users who already have the app on their devices would not be affected. Montana is the first state to pass such sweeping legislation.
“Opponents of the United States and Montana”
In the US, TikTok, which belongs to the Chinese internet group Bytedance, is coming under increasing political pressure. President Joe Biden’s administration has already banned the app on government employees’ phones. The background is concerned that Chinese authorities and secret services could collect information about Americans via TikTok and influence them politically. At the end of March, TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew had to answer questions in the US Congress. He met with distrust and rejection from both Republican and Democratic MPs.
Also included in the bill are concerns that the People’s Republic of China, an “opponent of the United States and Montana”, is collecting information about Montana’s citizens and businesses, including their intellectual property, in order to conduct economic and international espionage. TikTok, like other Chinese companies, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bytedance and is under the control and supervision of the government of China, which can instruct the video service to share user data with Beijing – including real-time data such as the location of officials, people or journalists. “contrary to the interests of the Chinese Communist Party”.
Privacy and adult content
Possible disclosure of the illegally collected information violates Montana’s right to privacy in an “unacceptable manner”. Instead of stopping the dangerous TikTok challenges among young people, the company has the “tests of courage” such as throwing objects at moving cars, taking excessive medication or causing unconsciousness (“blackout challenge”) and breaking skulls ( Skullbreaker Challenge) and prominently placed, the draft law goes on to say. In this context, the EU also threatened a TikTok ban at the beginning of the year.
TikTok has more than a billion users and is the most successful non-US online platform in Western countries. The company rejects all suspicions and emphasizes that it does not see itself as a subsidiary of a Chinese company. Bytedance is 60 percent owned by Western investors and the company is based in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. Critics counter that the Chinese founders held 20 percent of the control thanks to higher voting rights and that Bytedance has a large headquarters in Beijing.
After the vote in Parliament in Montana, the US broadcaster CNN quoted a TikTok spokeswoman as saying that her company would continue to fight for the rights of users and creative people in the state.
A US Democrat spoke out against a TikTok ban last month and called for stricter privacy laws. EU Commission officials have been banned from using the short video service since February.