Montana has become the first U.S. state to ban the Chinese-developed social media app TikTok, as its Republican governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill into law on Wednesday.
“To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned Tiktok in Montana,’’ Gianforte tweeted after signing the bill.
The ban, described by Chinese-owned TikTok as an infringement on the right to freedom of speech, is the first such prohibition in the Western world.
It comes after intense scrutiny of the social media platform over fears that its Chinese owners could use the app to steal data from users.
National security laws in China mean any company can be secretly compelled to do the bidding of state officials, including spying on their behalf.
Greg Gianforte, the software engineer-turned-Republican governor of Montana, signed the ban into law on Wednesday.
“Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr Gianforte said in a statement.
The state’s ban comes into force on 1 January 2024, though the move is expected to face legal challenges which could delay its enforcement.
A spokesman for TikTok said: “Governor Gianforte has signed a bill that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok, 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.”