As TikTok has grown to more than 150 million monthly users in the United States, state lawmakers and congressmen have warned of the potential dangers of being a tool of the Chinese government.
This year, dozens of states and the federal government banned government employees from downloading the popular app on their government devices. But Montana lawmakers went further, passing the first statewide ban on Friday, although the GOP governor, Greg Gianforte, is yet to sign the measure, and it is unclear how it will be enforced. If it becomes law, it will come into effect on January 1st.
At a March hearing of the US House of Representatives, members from both political parties informed TikTok CEO Shou Chew that a prospective all-encompassing ban across the country was under consideration. The idea has raised many objections, including how banning an app that provides a platform for expression might be compatible with the First Amendment.
Below are answers to a few frequently asked questions about the debate in the country’s capital.
Why does Congress want to banish TikTok?
Members of both sides have expressed concern about TikTok’s data-gathering practices and its connection to the Chinese Communist Party.
Chew said the data TikTok gathers from users is similar to data from other platforms, including national products like Instagram. TikTok is based in Singapore and Los Angeles, According to Chew. The product isn’t even available in China, whose ruling Communist Party doesn’t offer the same freedom of expression guarantees as the United States Constitution.
But Lawmakers say TikTok is unique in that the Chinese government can force the company to provide information about the users.
How would the banishment work?
It is unclear, but the ban would likely prevent companies like Apple and Google from offering TikTok on their app’s treasury Department. Still, users would most likely see similar effects one way or another.
Mobile device manufacturers can approve or reject apps displayed in app stores. Removing TikTok from these sources would prevent users from downloading the app. Those who already have the application on their devices will find that the usability decreases over time due to the inability to install updates.