Remember a few months ago when all you seemed to hear about was TikTok being banned? TikTok mania has definitely died down in the Capitol, but state-level bans are heating up and the legal challenges mean the fate of the social media behemoth is in judges’ hands.
TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, faced intense scrutiny from bipartisan lawmakers in Congress over security and privacy concerns. Congress and nearly half of all states have passed laws banning TikTok on government devices and in May, Montana became the first state to attempt an all-out ban.
What’s in the restriction?
Montana’s law prohibits the downloading of TikTok and fines all app stores and TikTok $10,000 per day for each time a person is given a chance to access the social media platform or download the app. There’s no penalty for users, but experts raised concerns about the practicality of enforcing the law and, several creators joined TikTok in suing the state to maintain access to the app.
The law is set to go into effect in January 2024, and content creators have asked a judge to prevent the implementation of the ban until they have time to take their challenge through the court system. Interestingly enough, TikTok is paying for the creators’ lawsuit.
“Many creators have expressed major concerns both privately and publicly about the potential impact of the Montana law on their livelihoods,” Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for TikTok, told the New York Times. “We support our creators in fighting for their constitutional rights.”
The ruling in the Montana case is expected to serve as a bellweather for larger efforts to ban the app. If the judge rules in favor of the creators’, it could stifle other efforts. But, if the judge sides with Montana, it could create a precedent for a nationwide crack down, if Congress decides to pursue it. Which, is a big, if.
What’s the latest?
Congress’s hearings about TikTok sparked tons of speculation that a ban was imminent, largely because it seemed to be a rare moment of bipartisanship. But, those hearings were four months ago and not much has happened since and lawmakers have since turned their attention to the threat of artificial intelligence.
TikTok’s also invested a lot of money in fighting efforts to ban the app. The company’s also tapped former legislators to lobby Congress on their behalf and enlisted the help of content creators to show the massive impact a ban would have in America. And efforts to stop the bans —or at least significantly stall it – seem to be working.
“Congress can’t ban TikTok,” James Lewis, Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told NY1. “I think this is one of the reasons this has fallen off the rails.”
That doesn’t mean TikTok’s completely safe, though, and it’s possible Congress could take up legislation to ban the app in some capacity later this year. Senator Maria Cantwell is drafting a proposal that would give the White House power to identify perceived national security risks but lets Congress check that power, according to The Washington Post. The bill’s proposal raised speculation that TikTok was the intended target, but a Senate Commerce aide told The Washington Post that Cantwell’s bill was not meant to directly ban TikTok.
Regardless of any plans Congress may have, nothing will be happening for at least a month because legislators have returned home for their scheduled August Recess. And when legislators do return, they’ll likely be tied up with negotiations about defense spending and the potential for a government shutdown, which means, the TikTok ban can is likely to get kicked down the road.
And if a ban does go into effect, expect the legislation to be tied up in legal battles for months, if not longer.