Montana Is the First State to Ban TikTok. Here's What You Need to Know

TikTok's uneasy relationship with U.S. regulators took another dramatic turn late yesterday when Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law a complete ban of the app in his state. Although several states have previously restricted the app on government-owned devices, Montana is the first state in the country to ban it entirely.

TikTok estimates 200,000 people use its app in the state—which has a population of 1.1 million—as well as 6,000 businesses. Montana is also a major hub for outdoor recreation and tourism, from high-end ski resorts to world-renown national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone attracting tens of thousands of visitors per year.

The new law is likely to face a litany of legal and technical challenges. Here's what you need to know as things stand right now.

Can I get in trouble for using TikTok in Montana?

In short, no. The state is implementing its ban by prohibiting downloads of the app within its borders and fining companies like Apple and Google—which operate popular app stores—as well as TikTok itself. While those companies could face fines of $10,000 per day for each person allowed to access the app, users are not financially targeted.

Can I still download and use TikTok in Montana?

As of publication, yes. The law doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2024. It's likely to face legal challenges before then.

Is it actually possible to enforce the ban? Is it legal?

The legality is likely to be challenged in the court system, The Associated Press reports. Critics have called it an infringement of First Amendment rights.

Whether it's technically achievable is another question. Online gambling companies use geofencing technology to enforce state-to-state rules about internet wagering, but these are not foolproof. Widely available VPN technology could likely circumvent any attempts to ban TikTok entirely. It's also difficult for app stores to prevent users in one state from downloading a specific app. Enforcement would be easier via TikTok itself, although the company will likely resist any such moves.

Why is Montana banning TikTok?

The state's move is the most drastic in a series of legal actions taken against the app over the past few years. TikTok's parent company is the Chinese-owned ByteDance. Lawmakers have raised concerns about data security and privacy on the app, and have even claimed it could constitute a national security threat.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by Congress earlier this year about the app's data privacy, safety, and content moderation. TikTok has stated that it doesn't share user data with the Chinese government.