More bad news for TikTok, with Montana becoming the first US state to ban the app outright in the region.
As reported by Reuters:
“Montana Governor Greg Gianforte on Wednesday signed legislation to ban Chinese-owned TikTok from operating in the state to protect residents from alleged intelligence gathering by China, making it the first US state to ban the popular short video app.”
The majority of US states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices, amid concerns around its connection to the Chinese Government, as have various other regions, but Montana is the first jurisdiction to take the next step of banning the app outright, on the basis of security concerns.
Montana’s TikTok ban is set to take effect January 1st, 2024, after which time no Montanans will be allowed to use the app. If, of course, the ban actually makes it into law without seeing any further challenges.
Which it likely will, as TikTok has already indicated that it will challenge the move.
It’s another mark against TikTok, and could be the start of a new wave of actions against the app, as US-China tensions continue to simmer, and security officials issue more warnings about the platform.
The issue at hand is that TikTok, like all Chinese-owned companies, is obligated to share its internal data with the Chinese Government on request, and although no such request has been reported thus far, this week, a former ByteDance employee claimed that the CCP had been given ‘supreme access’ to all data held by the company, including access to TikTok’s servers.
Such reports have prompted a range of cybersecurity experts to ring the alarm bells about the app, which many politicians are now heeding around the world – though it’s difficult to tell how much of these concerns are based on established facts, and how much are being fueled by anti-China concerns, and those looking to harm ByteDance specifically.
On this front, I’d lean on the advice of those that would know, being the security experts who assess such for a job. The FBI, the FCC, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, Australia’s Signals Directorate, Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre – basically every cybersecurity agency outside of China has issued some level of warning about using the app. Those warning levels do vary, but the basis is the same – don’t use TikTok on a device that can access official government or private information.
The bans on government devices make sense – if you’re concerned about the CCP potentially accessing information on users, which they might then use to coerce people into, say, changing regional policy, then government employees would be a prime target. But if that holds true, then what about their family, their kids, who could also be used against them in the same way? What about relatives, friends?
When you play it out, if you’re going to ban TikTok on government devices, then expanded bans actually also make sense – though again, only Montana is taking that next step at this stage, based on its advice.
But it could well spread. Like the initial government device bans, it seems entirely possible that this will spark a new wave of total bans in the US, which could then fan out to other regions.
Which is why TikTok will be fighting this with all its capacity – but will it be enough to stop further restrictions or actions against the app?