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Montana becomes first state to ban TikTok after governor signs bill into law

The law will likely face legal challenges as some have argued the law restricts free speech.
/ Source: NBC News

Montana officially became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday, May 17, after Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill restricting downloads of the immensely popular social media app into law.

The legislation, which was passed in April, makes it illegal for app stores to give users the option to download TikTok and also illegal for the company to operate within the state.

The law is likely to face challenges in court arguing it restricts free speech, but Gianforte praised the bill’s privacy protections.

“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gianforte said in a news release, calling the law “the most decisive action of any state.”

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter called the bill “unlawful” in a statement Wednesday, saying the app is a platform that “empowers hundreds of thousands of people across the state.”

“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,” Oberwetter said.

When the bill passed last month, Oberwetter said its “champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices.”

Violations of a ban include each time a user offered the ability to download the app. Each violation could carry a $10,000 penalty. Enforcement would be handled by the Montana Department of Justice.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told Congress in March that 150 million people in the U.S. are regular users of the app, which has exploded in popularity in recent years.

Though Montana is the first state to ban downloads and usage of the app for everyone in its borders, limited bans have been issued federally and state-by-state for government owned devices as well as networks.

President Joe Biden signed a ban last year that prohibits the use of TikTok by the federal government’s nearly 4 million employees on devices owned by its agencies.

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