Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation Thursday to ban TikTok, making his the first U.S. state to outright bar the Chinese-owned video sharing app.
The law makes it illegal for app stores from Google and Apple to offer TikTok within the state. However it will not impose any penalties on consumers who use the app.
The law is set to take effect on January 1.
The legality of the Montana ban is already being questioned. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with the trade group NetChoice—of which both Google and TikTok are members—have called the law unconstitutional.
The legislation has “trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information and run their small business, in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, policy director for the ACLU of Montana.
More than a dozen states have taken actions to ban TikTok on government devices, though only Montana so far has banned it entirely.
Congress and the White House have also moved to ban TikTok on government devices, and there’s a proposal in the House of Representatives to ban TikTok in the U.S. nationwide on all devices. The legislation has already advanced through the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The restrictions began after FBI Director Chris Wray in November warned that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control data collection on millions of American users, or to control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.
Wray has further noted that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is based in China and is therefore required by law to comply with requests made by the Chinese Communist Party. “This is a tool that is ultimately within the control the Chinese government, and it, to me, it screams out with national security concerns,” the FBI Director has said.
In March the Biden Administration reportedly levied an ultimatum at China: sell Chinese stakes in TikTok or face a possible ban on the app in the U.S.
A week later the Chinese government said it would oppose any such plans by the U.S. to force ByteDance to sell TikTok and further warned that such a move would hurt investor confidence in the U.S.
That same month, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that claims of the wildly popular app being beholden to the Chinese government were based on “misconceptions.” He further pledged that TikTok would safeguard U.S. user data from foreign interference.
TikTok reportedly has more than 1 billion monthly active users in more than 150 countries worldwide, including a reported 150 million users in the U.S.
According to Pew Research, 67% of U.S. 13 to 17-year olds use TikTok, with 16% of those teens saying they use the app almost constantly.