Montana Passes Law Banning TikTok in Latest Security Performance

Montana passed a law banning TikTok in the state. It’s unclear what problems are being solved, however.

The push to ban TikTok by lawmakers who don’t care about privacy or security is continuing. After several states moved to ban the platform on government issued devices, lawmakers set their sights on trying to ban the platform outright across the population. To date, there has been no evidence released to the public as to what makes TikTok a particularly unique threat to privacy or security, yet, this is the constant refrain from those pushing for these bans in the first place.

In fact, Canada seemingly blindly followed suit by banning TikTok on government issued devices. They too cited privacy and security reasons, yet refused to explain what those concerns were to the public. In a case of the blind leading the blind, several provinces also banned TikTok on government devices. Like the Federal government, the provinces also refused to disclose what those specific privacy and security concerns were. Instead, the governments in Canada simply said “China” and seemingly hoped that xenophobia would do the rest. When the federal government was questioned why actual privacy reform was stalled despite these so-called “concerns”, the government reluctantly began to slow walk Bill C-27 forward through the legislative process.

Like Canada, the United States also suffers from a total lack of a unifying privacy law that standardized how personal information is handled in the digital age. Curiously enough, the US is actually slightly better positioned to handle things like data breaches and leaks. This thanks to a patchwork system across some states and a regulators ability to fine companies in extreme cases. Still, the system was always more just hobbled together rather than a well thought out system.

It’s thanks to these deficiencies in the system that allowed numerous observers to point out that the concerns for privacy and security is simply a performance rather than actually solving anything. Indeed, much of what makes up TikTok’s data collecting policies aren’t really all that different from other platforms like Facebook and Twitter. So, if the concern is that TikTok collects personal information, banning it would ultimately solve nothing because some users might rely on other platforms that also collect and use personal information for advertising and marketing purposes.

Of course, common sense and reason isn’t exactly stopping lawmakers from making the push to ban the platform in the first place. Recently, Montana passed a law banning the platform in the entire state. From the BBC:

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has been accused of posing a national security risk through data gathered from users.

If signed into law by Governor Greg Gianforte, the ban could come into effect in January.

The company has suggested that it would take legal action to fight the Montana bill.

The bill, known as SB 419, passed by a vote of 54 to 43. It cites a number of concerns about TikTok, including alleged surveillance from the Chinese government.

The ideas behind TikTok got even more weird because they cited people doing dangerous things as a reason to ban TikTok:

It also refers to encouragement of “dangerous activities” among young users of the app, such as “throwing objects at moving automobiles” or “lighting a mirror on fire and then attempting to extinguish it using only one’s body parts”.

So, apparently, people do stupid things only because of TikTok, not necessarily because there are stupid people in the world. Yeah, that really solves everything right there, doesn’t it?

As for enforcement, apparently, the idea is to bar app stores from offering the app:

The legislation makes it illegal for app stores to offer TikTok. It does not, however, forbid those who already have TikTok from using it.

So, what exactly does this solve again? At most, you are restricting TikTok’s ability to grow… in a single state. At most, the idea is that other states would follow suit and ban the app, restricting growth across the country. An argument could be made that this would be unconstitutional. In fact, this is the view held by TikTok who apparently vowed to fight this in court:

In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said that the “bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalising this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts”.

“We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach,” the spokesperson added.

Lost in all of this is the fact that some people are highly critical of “Big Tech” because of their market dominance. Yet, in all of this, many of these critics seem to be either silent on this issue or actively supporting a ban on a competitor to the likes of Alphabet via YouTube. If you want other competitors to the biggest players, banning one of the biggest competitors is plainly counterproductive to your cause. Do some people even bother to think things through here?

At any rate, it looks like this latest effort is going to be going through the courts. As we all know, that is always a toss up on whether common sense prevails or not. Either way, that’s where this story seems to be heading next.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: