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TikTok Ban: The Death Knell for Free Access to the Web?

TikTok Ban: The Death Knell for Free Access to the Web?

By Sebastian Schaub, CEO,

Chinese tech company TikTok is firmly in the headlights as authorities in the US continue to scrutinise the App due to worries over a possible threat to national security. Things have just significantly ramped up with Montana becoming the first US state to ban TikTok. This move has seen Governor Greg Gianforte signing legislation that would prevent mobile application stores from offering the app state-wide by next year. Is this series of escalations against TikTok in the US justified in the face of national security concerns or are we seeing yet another example of a nation state looking at ways to throttle free access to the web for its citizens?

There is clearly concern about the use of Chinese technology given the backdrop of tensions between the West and China on the geopolitical stage. We have witnessed similar unease in the UK with respect to Huawei. The UK government has ruled that Huawei technology must be removed from the UK’s 5G public networks by the end of 2027 under legal documents that were handed to broadband and mobile operators. In the US, both the federal government and more than half of US states, have prohibited the TikTok app on government devices. In response, TikTok’s parent company Bytedance has repeatedly denied that it has ever shared data with the Chinese government and has also stated that it would deny any such request should it be asked to do so in the future.

And governor Gianforte has taken things a step further by prohibiting the use of all social media applications that compile any personal information / data to perceived foes on any government-issued devices. Specifically, we are talking about WeChat (Chinese parent company) and Telegram Messenger (established in Russia).

As a VPN service provider, we know only too well that the folk in Montana can easily bypass any such ban by using a virtual private network. By using such a service, users are effectively encrypting their data traffic and denies others from snooping on their web browsing activity. But there is already mounting anger by those who consider the moves as nothing more than authoritarian deception; indeed, those who advocate for a ‘free’ internet are openly critical of the US authorities, decrying their actions as overall censorship.

The situation in Montana is yet another example of living in an era where the concept of internet freedom is very much under threat. We have witnessed a whole host of examples just over the last couple of years whereby governments in countries such as India, Russia, Indonesia, and China have taken steps to exert greater control over their internet territory. It is a common defence to claim that their actions are to strive for greater good – to provide safety for citizens, to prevent crime or to uphold a particular moral standpoint. What they really want is greater control over their citizens. They want the power to spy on them or be able to eliminate any platform from which they can exercise freedom of speech – banning such a popular app like TikTok is precisely doing this. Blocking or limiting access to ‘undesirable’ social media platforms or apps all boil down to one thing – denying internet freedom. To enjoy true internet freedom citizens everywhere should be able to freely share ideas, knowledge and opinions. This is the cornerstone of free speech and democracy. TikTok has already stated that the Montana bill basically infringes on the first amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok. The company has also declared that they intend to defend the rights of their users both inside and outside of Montana.

The concept of internet freedom covers a whole host of considerations – net neutrality, freedom of information and the right to internet access as prime examples. We believe that establishing a free global internet should be an international priority. The current sentiment of governor Gianforte and the powers that be in Montana, certainly fly in the face of internet freedom. We can only hope that this sort of ban is short-lived and doesn’t spread across the country – otherwise, what technology is next in the crosshairs?

About the Author

TikTok Ban: The Death Knell for Free Access to the Web?Sebastian is the Founder of VPN and he has been working in the internet security industry for over a decade. He started VPN to make internet security and privacy accessible to everybody.

Sebastian can be reach through our website

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