Governance May 22, 2023
TikTok Users Sue to Overturn Montana Statewide Ban
TikTok users in the United States have filed a lawsuit to lift Montana’s ban on the China-owned short video sharing platform.
Montana became the first state last week to impose a complete ban on China-based Bytedanece’s viral app, citing China’s government’s access to users of the widely popular app.
Greg Gianforte, governor of Montana had signed into law a measure on Wednesday that banned TikTok from operating in the state completely. This ban, which took effect on January 1, 2024, marked the first of its kind in the United States.
As a Republican, Gianforte stated that he signed the law to safeguard the privacy and security of Montanans. He consistently leveled allegations against the popular video-sharing app, claiming that it posed a security risk. The Chinese government could potentially exploit TikTok to collect data on American users, according to Gianforte.
Also Read: Montana Becomes First US State to Ban TikTok Completely
“Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party [CCP],” Gianforte said in a statement.
However, five TikTokers have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the recently approved ban. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Montana on Wednesday and names the state’s attorney general, Austin Knudsen, who is responsible for enforcing the law.
State was ready for lawsuit
In their lawsuit, the TikTok users contend that the state is attempting to exert authority over national security matters that it does not possess, as well as suppressing speech that Montana is not authorized to stifle.
The law infringes upon their First Amendment rights, protecting freedom of speech, they argued.
An important thing to recognize about the Montana TikTok ban is that, the more attention it delivers for the lawmakers, the more states will do it, even if the only thing it gets them is legal bills.
This is most of why I’m choosing to mostly ignore it.
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) May 20, 2023
“Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting to TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes,” the lawsuit said.
Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for Knudsen, insisted that the state was ready for such lawsuits. “We expected a legal challenge and are fully prepared to defend the law,” she said.
The growing concerns about potential Chinese government influence over the platform have led to increased demands from U.S. lawmakers and state officials for a nationwide ban on the app, prompting scrutiny of TikTok’s parent company.
Who are the plaintiffs?
The lawsuit reveals that the five plaintiffs, who are all Montana residents, encompass a diverse group of individuals. Among them is a sustainable swimwear designer who relies on TikTok as a platform to promote her company and engage with customers.
Another plaintiff is a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who utilizes TikTok to establish connections with fellow veterans. Additionally, the group includes a rancher who shares content about her outdoor escapades on TikTok, a student studying applied human physiology who shares content about outdoor adventures, and an individual who earns revenue by sharing comedic videos on TikTok.
This is why Gianforte banned TikTok in Montana https://t.co/9ApiHEvPQu
— Melissa Luck ☘ (@MelissaKXLY4) May 20, 2023
With a population of slightly over 1 million people, Montana has restricted that TikTok may be subject to fines for each violation and could face additional daily fines of $10,000 if it fails to comply with the ban.
It is worth noting that former President Donald Trump’s endeavor to prohibit new downloads of TikTok and WeChat through a Commerce Department order in 2020 was disenchanted by multiple courts and ultimately did not come into effect.
‘Google Manipulating Search to Favor Liberals and Influence Elections’
Tech giant Google is allegedly manipulating search to favor liberals and tip elections, reports the New York Post. The company is using its virtual monopoly as a search engine to “elevate liberal views, stifle conservatives, and manipulate children,” according to a research report by Dr. Robert Epstein.
Epstein, who has spent the last decade monitoring Google’s manipulation of newsfeeds, search engine results, and YouTube suggestions, shared his latest report with the Post.
“Google has the power to change minds and move elections to suit its liberal corporate worldview,” according to the Post, citing the report.
Google shifted 6 million votes to Biden
Social media and the internet have become influential parts of political campaigning worldwide, as they are used to sway voter sentiments through various platforms.
However, the researcher claims that Google alone manipulated its search engine to shift 6 million votes to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election in the United States.
Read Also: Musk Will Leverage AI to Detect Manipulation of Public Opinion on Twitter
“Google secretly had in 2020, using biased algorithms which skewed search results towards positive links for Biden and negative links for Trump, as well as Get Out The Vote messaging on Google’s home page targeted primarily at Democrat voters,” stated the researcher Epstein.
Liberal bias is pervasive
The liberal bias is even more pervasive, as the primary outcome of Epstein’s report reflects monitoring how Google’s massive psy-op targets children through YouTube and other products.
Google’s culture is monomaniacally liberal. Google execs have shown willingness to use the power of algorithms to intervene in elections to change voters’ minds on a massive scale.
How Google manipulates search to favor liberals and tip elections https://t.co/WQ9gg9DUQ8 @nypost
— Zel (@OneAndOnlyZel) May 26, 2023
YouTube’s ‘Up Next’ suggestions were biased towards liberal sources 76% of the time for adults. However, data from the past three months reveals that for children and teens, the percentage of suggested videos from liberal sources on YouTube is as high as 96%, according to the researcher.
“That’s how aggressive they are with our kids, because they think they’re gods. And no one has ever taken them to task, ever,” stated the researcher.
‘Google doing this since Obama took power’
Reacting to news regarding Google’s manipulation of search to favor liberals and swing votes, a Twitter user saw no surprise from the company.
“No surprise Google is behaving like media, which cherrypicks the information it reports. Omitting inconvenient information,” reads her reaction.
This is not new. Google has been doing this since the day Obama took office. https://t.co/hMXpYpEopj
— Chuck Norris (@GreyShhadow) May 26, 2023
In another scorching tweet, a user expressed frustration and claimed “election interference is allowed” and “ignored” as long as it benefits the Democrats.
“Try finding El Salvador economic reports for the last 20 years on Google. You can’t, but the World Bank reports prove decades of growth,” a user tweeted to reflect the search manipulation of Google.
Planning for live data in 2024 presidential election
The researcher has developed the same system as Nielsen for monitoring TV ratings to capture the ephemeral data by effectively “looking over the shoulders” of real users, whom he calls field agents.
Epstein has permission to record every Google interaction from 7,566 registered voters in 50 states. The researcher has even bigger plans, as he added 1,600 children aged 5–17 to expand his “field agents” pool to 25,000.
The best way to stop Google is by exposing what they do, he argues, and to this end he has built a public dashboard to go live in the 2024 presidential election.
The platform will feature live tracking of bias on Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Bing using real-time data from his chain of law firms across the United States.
However, Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised the Congress before the 2020 presidential election that “Google does not modify any products, including Search, to promote a particular political viewpoint… [We] will not do so for the upcoming 2020 presidential election.”
China Urges Parents to Report Children’s Use of Encrypted Messaging Apps to Police
China has issued a directive to parents to report police if their children are using encrypted messaging apps. Almost every social media platform is banned in China, and even China-owned TikTok is facing restrictions in the Western world and Australia.
This strict control over social media is a result of the Chinese government’s censorship policies and concerns about information control.
Also Read: Montana Becomes First US State to Ban TikTok Completely
Additionally, TikTok has also faced challenges in India, where it was banned due to national security concerns related to data privacy and its Chinese ownership. Even in China, TikTok is only available in its Chinese version, Douyin.
The TikTok ban in the United States has made headlines in recent years, whereas China seeks to restrict encrypted western-owned platforms.
Concerns over content erasure
According to a statement from the authorities cited by state media, Chinese authorities claim that such apps reside in a “grey area” of legal supervision as they possess “the ability to erase content immediately after reading, which facilitates the destruction of criminal evidence.”
The statement highlights concerns about the potential “misuse” of these apps and the challenges they pose in terms of preserving valuable evidence.
The authorities emphasize the need for stricter regulations to ensure accountability and prevent the potential destruction of crucial information.
The local authorities have issued instructions to parents, urging them to bring their children to the nearest police station if they come across any messaging apps “to find out whether their children had engaged in a crime.”
The report emphasizes that “school and family education should play an important role in deterring juvenile crimes.”
The significance of parental involvement and educational institutions in preventing and addressing potential criminal activities among young individuals, stated the authorities.
Last autumn, messaging apps like Telegram played a crucial role in facilitating the organization of demonstrations.
Messaging apps played a dual role during the protests by facilitating coordination and preserving censored media.
Individuals used these platforms to save pictures and videos that faced swift deletion by censors, resulting in a constant battle with Chinese government surveillance and censorship.
The demonstrations, referred to as the “white paper” protests because participants held up blank sheets of paper, expressed their dissatisfaction with China’s strict zero-Covid policies and censorship.
These protests stood as the largest demonstrations since the historic Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, which ended tragically with the military resorting to the use of force against the demonstrators.
Example of totalitarian states hating encryption
In response to the news, one individual expressed a striking observation, stating, “It’s a strange twist on Mao’s Red Guard, who ratted on their parents to the commies; now we have parents ratting on their kids.”
The user conveyed a sense of resignation, stating, “Well, whatever works at pitching families, neighbors, and friends against each other.”
Another individual remarked, “The perfect example – why totalitarian states hate encryption.”
Facebook on the Verge of Being Fined €746m for Misusing Data
Facebook is set to be slammed by the Irish regulator as it prepares to punish the social media giant with a €746 million fine for mishandling user information, reports The Guardian.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, acting as the primary privacy regulator for Facebook and Meta in the EU, is anticipated to halt data transfers from Facebook’s European users to the United States with its decision.
The fine and ruling, expected to be confirmed on Monday, will establish a new record for violating the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR), surpassing the €746 million penalty imposed on Amazon by Luxembourg in 2021.
Read Also: TikTok Collecting Similar Data to Meta, Twitter, Snap
The parent company of Facebook is expected to get a chance to appeal against the punishment in the anticipated grace period.
Inadequate data handling
Austrian privacy advocate Max Schrems is the one who brought the legal challenge. The ruling addresses concerns raised by Edward Snowden’s revelations, indicating that European users’ data is not adequately protected from US intelligence agencies during transfers across the Atlantic.
Meta’s policy chief, Nick Clegg, said that suspending data transfers based on standard contractual clauses (SCCs) could have a “far-reaching effect on businesses that rely on SCCs and on the online services that many people and businesses rely on,” back in 2020.
“A billion-euro parking ticket is of no consequence to a company that earns many more billions by parking illegally"
fromhttps://t.co/KUPPR6MVIM#facebook #meta #privacy #fine
— Dr Stuart Woolley (@FractalDoctor) May 21, 2023
In a recent quarterly report the company stated that without SCCs or “other alternative means of data transfers,” it would “likely be unable to offer a number of its most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe.”
Potential compensation for user data usage
Over on Reddit, the public has been reacting to the news and raising the possibility of receiving compensation.
“Do I get some of this money if they used my information?” asked one Redditor.
Another user responded, “You’ll see a little bit all over. It’s going into EU coffers, so it will fund EU projects, I imagine.”
The conversation explored the idea that provisioning funds for EU projects might be more worthwhile than distributing small amounts to individuals.
“Which, if spent well, is more worthwhile than just giving people £1.67 or whatever tiny amount,” stated one contributor.
The comment thread also touched upon the revenue Facebook generates from user profiles and the varying advertising value based on different regions.
Opinions expressed in the Reddit thread highlight the ongoing debate surrounding Facebook’s data handling practices and the financial implications for both the company and its users.
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