Montana’s governor signed a bill into law banning TikTok from his state Wednesday.
The legislation, the first in the nation to forbid downloading the app at the state level, is slated to go into effect in January 2024. It prohibits app stores like Apple’s and Google’s from offering downloads of the app, which is used by more than 150 million Americans. If Apple or Google were to allow downloads, they would face a $10,000-per-day fine, as would TikTok; users downloading the app would not face the same penalty.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte said on Twitter, “To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.” Other states have barred TikTok from government-owned phones and devices, but no others have issued a blanket ban that applies to regular citizens.
A TikTok spokesperson said in response, “Governor Gianforte has signed a bill that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok.” Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment about their compliance with the ban.
Experts expect legal challenges to the legislation. NetChoice general counsel Carl Szabo previously told Gizmodo of the TikTok ban, “Nobody ever writes a bill that is this clearly unconstitutional.” TikTok’s own statement forecasts a legal challenge: “We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”
Others, like the American Civil Liberties Union, said the law blatantly infringes on users’ freedom of speech.“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature have trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves,” ACLU of Montana Policy director Keegan Medrano said.
Montana TikTokers previously spoke to Gizmodo about the ban and described a legal limbo that threatened to upend their lives. They expressed a deep fondness for the app because they had found both business success and sincere friends there. One veteran, a metal sculptor who showcases his profession in videos, said his fellow veterans would call him if he hadn’t posted in a few days because they worried about his mental health. He said he did not know where else he could find such a community.
Like Gianforte, the federal government is considering prohibiting the app. Joe Biden’s administration has warned ByteDance to either sell TikTok to a U.S. company or be barred from the country. Congress took time to browbeat TikTok’s CEO in a hearing over national security concerns with the app in a five-hour hearing earlier this year.
Update: 5/17 7:25 P.M. EST: Added statement from ACLU.