Montana Will be the First State in the United States to Outlaw TikTok”

Montana Will be the First State in the United States to Outlaw TikTok”

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation on Wednesday prohibiting Chinese-owned TikTok from functioning in the state in order to safeguard residents from alleged Chinese intelligence collection, becoming Montana the first U.S. state to do so.

Montana will make it illegal for Google and Apple’s app shops to sell TikTok in the state, but will not penalize users who use the software. The prohibition is set to go into force on January 1, 2024, and it is almost guaranteed to encounter judicial challenges.

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, did not respond to a Reuters inquiry about legal action.

In a previous statement, TikTok claimed that the new law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” and that it would “continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

Over 150 million Americans use TikTok, but there have been increasing calls from US lawmakers and state officials to outright outlaw the app due to alleged Chinese government influences over the service.

Software has grown quite popular among teenagers. According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of US youths between the ages of 13 and 17 use TikTok, while 16% of all teens use the app almost daily. According to TikTok, the “vast majority” of its users are over the age of 18.

In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was interrogated by a congressional committee about whether the Chinese government could access user data or affect what Americans saw on the platform. However, efforts to prohibit TikTok nationwide or to give the Biden administration greater powers to crack down on or ban TikTok have failed to gain traction in Congress.

The bill, according to Gianforte, will advance “our shared priority of protecting Montanans from Chinese Communist Party surveillance.”

TikTok has consistently denied sharing data with the Chinese government and stated that it would not do so if requested.

TikTok could face fines of $10,000 per day if it violates the restriction in Montana, which has a population of slightly more than 1 million people.

The short video app is available in Apple Inc AAPL.O and Google app stores. If Apple and Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O, breach the restriction, they might face fines of $10,000 per infraction, per day.

Apple and Google did not react quickly to calls for comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the measure “unconstitutional,” noting that it will take effect on January 1 if the courts do not intervene.

In a statement, Keegan Medrano, policy director at the ACLU of Montana, said that the ban “tramples on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small businesses in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment.”

A Commerce Department order issued in 2020 by former president Donald Trump to prohibit fresh TikTok and WeChat downloads was thwarted in court and never went into effect.

Several Democratic members of Congress, notably Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and First Amendment organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union are supporters of TikTok’s right to free speech.

Carl Szabo, general counsel for the industry association NetChoice, also attacked the new regulation. “The government may not obstruct our access to constitutionally protected speech, whether it is in a newspaper, on a website, or via an app,” he said in a statement, adding that Montana “ignores the US Constitution, due process, and free speech.”

Gianforte, who had attempted to persuade the state legislature to broaden the ban to include other social media apps that provide specific data to foreign adversaries, also prohibited the use of all social media apps that collect and provide personal information or data to foreign adversaries on state government-issued devices.

TikTok is working on Project Texas, which will form a separate corporation to keep American user data in the United States on servers run by the US tech company Oracle.