(CN) — Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a comprehensive ban of TikTok on Wednesday, making the Treasure State the first to outlaw the popular Chinese-owned, video sharing app.
"To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana," Gianforte, a Republican, said in a tweet Wednesday.
The Montana law — passed in April by the state's Republican-majority Legislature — is likely to be challenged in court, and a possible injunction would prevent the state from enforcing it while the law's legality is litigated.
"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," a TikTok spokesperson said. "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."
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, and the app is used by 150 million Americans, according to the company. The widespread popularity of the app combined with its Chinese control has prompted concerns that it could by used by the Chinese government to spy or to spread propaganda and misinformation. Former President Donald Trump tried to ban the app in 2020 unless ByteDance sold it.
According to the Montana law, TikTok's continued operation in the state serves as "a valuable tool to the People's Republic of China to conduct corporate and international espionage in Montana and may allow the People's Republic of China to track the real-time locations of public officials, journalists, and other individuals adverse to the Chinese Communist Party's interests."
TikTok has said that it has been addressing the U.S national security concerns, including by investing $1.5 billion over the past two years in setting up a data security system to isolate and protect U.S. user data from foreign access.
The Montana ban, which will go into effect Jan. 1 barring a court injunction, makes it illegal to offer TikTok in Apple and Google app stores within the state. The law imposes a $10,000 fine for each violation.
In 2022, President Joe Biden signed off on the the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, which prohibits the use of the app on federal government-issued mobile phones and other devices. Dozens of states have enacted similar bans on TikTok on state-issued devices.
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