TikTok on Phone

TikTok on Phone

The Absurd Theater of TikTok’s Excommunication in Montana

In the vast political kaleidoscope of American governance, one occasionally encounters a spectacle so glaringly absurd that it provokes a delightful blend of bemusement and disbelief. Enter Montana’s Governor Greg Gianforte, who recently engineered the prohibition of TikTok, the wildly popular social media platform, within the boundaries of his state. He proudly proclaimed on Twitter “To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.” Gianforte’s actions, cast in the grand narrative of national security, hark back to the playbook of despotic regimes – restricting freedoms in the name of safety, an absurdity that, in its own perverse way, is so resoundingly American.

To the uninitiated, TikTok may seem an inconsequential tool of modern youth, a frivolous arena of dance routines and viral challenges. However, behind this façade lies a potent symbol of the global battle for technological hegemony, with China’s ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, bearing the flag for the People’s Republic. Governor Gianforte, in his crusade, purports to combat the alleged data harvesting activities of ByteDance, thereby ‘protecting’ Montanan citizens. Yet, his actions amount to little more than political theater.

The Governor’s approach has two glaring errors. First, the technical requirements of banning TikTok in just one state is almost impossible, and almost everyone who uses TikTok knows what a VPN is, unlike the Governor. The banning of TikTok in Montana is hardly an effective move in terms of internet security. It is a token gesture of defiance, naively underestimating the complexity of cybersecurity. Banning one application is akin to plugging a single hole in a sieve. With countless social media platforms, applications, and online tools potentially harvesting user data, singling out TikTok reeks of misguided xenophobia rather than calculated policy-making.

Second, this ban is a direct affront to the cherished American value of freedom of speech. By regulating what platforms citizens can use to express themselves, Governor Gianforte is essentially curating the content to which Montanans have access. It smacks of the worst excesses of authoritarianism, wrapped in the guise of security. A democratic government must always resist the easy allure of censorship, and instead rely on empowering its citizens through education and robust privacy laws.

Under the guise of protection, Governor Gianforte has neatly sidestepped the core issues of privacy, data collection, and free speech. The nature of the modern digital age means that data collection is not limited to TikTok or to Chinese companies. American tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have faced myriad allegations concerning their handling of user data. If Gianforte’s true objective is the protection of his citizens’ privacy, then this selective ban demonstrates a puzzling double standard.

A more intelligent and productive approach would involve comprehensive data privacy reforms. It is paramount that our society creates a culture of internet literacy where citizens can understand the nuances of digital privacy and take informed decisions about the apps they use and the data they share. Education, not prohibition, should be our primary weapon against any potential cyber threats.

Banning TikTok in Montana is a ham-fisted attempt at resolving a complex issue that requires much more nuanced, informed, and considered measures. Rather than puffing up in parochial indignation, we need to craft intelligent policies that acknowledge and tackle the multifaceted issues surrounding internet security. Otherwise, we risk sliding down a slippery slope of censorious behavior, masked as national security, that can only lead us astray from the democratic principles we hold dear.

In this theater of the absurd, Governor Gianforte, unfortunately, finds himself playing the fool. He dons the cloak of a protector while peddling policies that are as ineffective as they are restrictive. In the end, his TikTok ban will likely serve as little more than an amusing footnote in Montana’s history.