Why is it difficult to ban TIK TOK in the USA according to recent court victories?
TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms in the US as political leaders try and ban its use...
The popular social media app TikTok has emerged victorious in two significant court battles in Indiana and Montana, making it clear that efforts to ban the platform will be much more complicated than anticipated by critics of the app.
TikTok, owned by the Chinese company Byte Dance, has become a punching bag for both political parties, which accuse the company of using the platform to spy and collect data on US citizens. These allegations have been denied by TikTok US, with executives highlighting a data storage agreement with Oracle that prevents user data from being sent overseas.
The suit in Indiana was dismissed by Judge Jennifer DeGroote of Allen County Superior Court in Fort Wayne on the grounds that downloading the app, which is free, does not reach the standard of a consumer transaction. Such a characterization was necessary for the legal argument the prosecution was attempting to bring against TikTok.
Another law struck down in Montana
Additionally, in Montana, the state legislature passed a law that has been blocked by a federal judge, which would have banned the use of the app in the state.
In court documents, TikTok has stated that it has not shared, and will not share, any US user data with the Chinese government. They have also taken significant steps to safeguard the privacy and security of TikTok users.
Judge Donald Molloy specifically called out Montana’s fixation on supposed Chinese influence in its legal case and legislation, noting the pervasive anti-Chinese sentiment. He found Montana’s law unconstitutional not only for infringing on the constitutional rights of users and businesses but also for exceeding state authority. Montana was attempting to exercise foreign policy authority reserved for the federal government. At present, the ban has been halted, but the final decision will be made at a later date when the legal challenges have gone through the courts.
A complicated landscape
Both cases have proven that a ban on TikTok will be hard to implement at the state level and would likely require Congressional action.
While various political leaders in Washington, D.C., have voiced their support, no bills have been brought to the floor. However, this does not mean Congress has taken no action against TikTok. In an appropriations bill passed in 2022, a measure was included that “requires [...] TikTok to be removed from the information technology of federal agencies.” Additionally, the law created a mandate for the Office of Management and Budget “to develop standards for executive agencies that require TikTok and any successor application from the developer to be removed from agency information technology (e.g., devices).”