Home World Montana TikTok ban comes amid global move toward restrictions

Montana TikTok ban comes amid global move toward restrictions


Montana in May became the first U.S. state to ban TikTok, the popular short-form video app. Gov. Greg Gianforte (R), who signed the ban into law, cited privacy concerns over the app’s ties to China.

While the move went further than other U.S. states have so far and will likely face legal challenges, it is part of a larger story on the world stage: Governments around the globe have moved to restrict TikTok over similar concerns, and in 2020, India, the largest country by population after China, banned it outright.

Other U.S. states and the federal government have bans in place for public employees.

TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance as well as other companies, including some that aren’t Chinese, has in recent months faced mounting government pushback over fears that it could be used to gain access to private data or to spread pro-Beijing propaganda.

But the bans have run into resistance from free-speech advocates, as well as opposition from the Chinese government. ByteDance has denied claims it is controlled by a government entity, pointing to its founding by entrepreneurs and its funding from international institutional investors.

Biden administration wants TikTok’s Chinese owners to divest

Here are some other countries that have moved to restrict or ban TikTok.

TikTok was initially banned in India in 2020, and the ban became permanent in January 2021.

The move came after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a border clash with Chinese troops in the Himalayas in June 2020. Tensions spiked between the two countries, and India imposed bans on more than 50 Chinese apps, including TikTok and the messaging app WeChat.

At the time, Forbes estimated that TikTok could suffer a loss of up to $6 billion because of the ban from its largest market outside China.

Millions watched an Indian man eat chicken legs on TikTok until the app was banned

Under the Trump administration, tensions flared between TikTok and Washington, with President Donald Trump threatening to block new downloads of TikTok within the United States in 2020. That ban never took effect, after failing in the courts.

Tensions continued to build under President Biden, however, and earlier this year the administration gave government agencies 30 days to delete TikTok from government-issued devices. Dozens of states have issued directives banning the app from devices, and Congress has pushed for an outright ban.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has been in negotiations with TikTok for over two years, with divestiture one of the tougher options recently presented.

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew faced scrutiny from members of Congress earlier this year when he testified on Capitol Hill amid heightened wariness of the popular short-form video app’s ties to China.

China has voiced stern opposition to the Biden administration’s proposal, with state media portraying Chew as a hero and the Foreign Ministry calling the process the “unreasonable suppression” of TikTok — even as China continues to enforce blocks on Western social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Montana in May became the first state to enact a full ban, which is likely to face challenges under the U.S. Constitution.

Canada is latest country to ban TikTok on government phones

Canada banned TikTok across government-issued phones last month, shortly after the U.S. announcement.

The Canadian government said it had carried out a review of TikTok and “determined that it presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the move “may be a first step, it may be the only step” that the government needed to take.

Taiwan banned TikTok on government devices in December and is mulling a nationwide ban amid rising tensions with Beijing.

The government has looked to India as a case study of the efficacy of banning TikTok outright. But it has drawn no concrete conclusions, since many are able to get around the full ban, according to the Taipei Times, by changing their regional settings or using a virtual private network, or VPN, which helps users bypass restrictions and hide what they do online.

The European Parliament, European Commission and European Union Council have all imposed bans on TikTok on staff members’ devices in recent months.

“This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyberattacks against the corporate environment of the Commission,” the European Commission said when it announced the ban in February.

E.U. member states such as Belgium and Denmark have banned TikTok from government phones.

The British ruling government announced a ban on TikTok on government ministers’ devices this month.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden told Britain’s Parliament that it was a precautionary but “prudent” move taken after a review by the National Cyber Security Center, the BBC reported.

“The security of sensitive government information must come first,” Dowden said.

Days later, Parliament followed suit, banning the app on associated devices and any electronics connected to its wireless network.

Branches of the Australian government have enacted similar bans on staff members’ devices.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and the Departments of Defense and Home Affairs have all said employees cannot download the app on their work phones, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Privacy and geopolitical tension with China are not the only reasons TikTok has run afoul of governments. Indonesia temporarily banned the app in 2018, citing concerns including “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy.” The ban was lifted less than a week later after the app agreed to censor some of its content.

Pakistan’s government has temporarily banned the app at least twice over what it said was inappropriate content. It’s not unusual for the country’s government to censor the internet at home. In February it blocked Wikipedia over “blasphemous” content. Hours later, the site was restored.

The Taliban announced a ban on TikTok in 2021 to “prevent the younger generation from being misled,” according to the BBC. The ban came into effect, but Wired reports that users have found ways around the restrictions through VPNs.

Lawmakers in Wellington have also agreed to ban the app on mobile devices with access to the country’s parliamentary network, citing cybersecurity concerns. Some exceptions will be made for those who need to access TikTok for work purposes, officials said. The ban will take effect by the end of March, Reuters reported.

New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry and defense forces also said they have enacted bans for work devices as a “precautionary approach.”

Niha Masih, Emily Rauhala, Adela Suliman and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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