A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.
Proposals to restrict TikTok are moving forward both in Congress and the states, where Montana became the first state to ban TikTok and Maine is among a larger group of states that has moved to bar it from cellphones on state networks.
The social media platform boasts a reported 150 million users in the U.S. and is being scrutinized for its parent company’s close relationship with the Chinese government and pro-regime censorship on the platform. Legal and practical concerns are working against bans, including one idea from U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
What’s going on: Maine is among a large group of states to bar the app from state cellphones on an order from the administration of Gov. Janet Mills, whose 2022 reelection campaign still has an account on the platform. A group of Maine Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Nathan Carlow, R-Buxton wants to enshrine the governor’s TikTok order in state law.
The measure from King and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, seeks to force the sale of TikTok or ban it. These efforts and the Montana one sent to the governor’s desk last week rest on the federal government’s concerns about TikTok’s parent being subject to a Chinese law that forces businesses to hand over personal data that could figure into the nation’s security.
But, but, but: There are legal and practical limits to all of these bans, however. Observers are warning of a First Amendment case over them. Some experts told Politico that the platform could win at the federal level. The technology industry has also said it is not possible to ban the app in certain states, which could work against regional bans in the short term.
These bills make the Maine measure on state phones look like small potatoes. Given Mills’ move, this may not run into much political opposition in Augusta. But a look at the wider landscape reveals that this may be the extent of what lawmakers can easily do to rein in TikTok.