Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation on Wednesday to ban China’s TikTok. It is the first US state to impose a total ban on TikTok.
Specifically, it means that Google and Apple will no longer be allowed to offer the app in Montana, but the state will not impose sanctions on individuals who already use the app.
The ban will take effect on January 1, 2024, but it is expected that it will still be challenged in court. TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, did not respond to a question from Reuters about whether it will take legal action.
Earlier, TikTok issued a statement saying the new law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok.”
TikTok, which has more than 150 million US users, is under increasing pressure in the US over concerns about Chinese espionage. Concrete indications for this are still lacking.
The app has become very popular among teenagers. According to the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of American teens ages 13 to 17 use TikTok, and 16 percent of all teens say they use the app almost constantly.
Calls to ban TikTok nationwide or give the Biden administration new powers to crack down on or ban TikTok have not progressed in Congress. Also, other states don’t seem to be planning to ban the app.
The question is also whether the ban can really be effective. If Google and Apple manage to ban the app only in Montana, users can always download the app via a VPN connection or in a neighboring state.
Montana is a sparsely populated state with a population of just over 1 million.