Montana has become the first US state to ban TikTok on personal devices (lead image: TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew).
The state’s Republican governor Greg Gianforte signed the ban into law on Wednesday and is due to take effect on the 1 January.
The ban follows years of speculation among lawmakers that TikTok is tied to the Chinese government. While TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company founded by Chinese nationals. However, the firm is now 60 per cent owned by foreign investors. Its operations are also headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” said Gianforte.
“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.”
Gianforte also directed Montana’s chief information officer and executive agency directors to prohibit the use of all social media applications tied to foreign adversaries on state equipment and for state business in Montana.
TikTok said that the ban “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana.”
Banning TikTok has become a cause celebre within the American Republican party, with lawmakers criticising the app routinely in federal and state legislatures. The company’s chief executive Shou Zi Chew, was also called to testify in front of Congress about whether the Chinese government could access user data or influence what Americans see on the app.
Shou repeatedly said that it would never spy on Americans but admitted that employees had used the TikTok accounts of journalists to obtain information about them.
“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 said. It is expected to contest the ban.
The banning order passed by Gianforte also extends to other companies that are “tied to foreign adversaries and operating in the US.”
CapCut, which creates filters for TikTok, and Lemon8 have also been listed as Chinese-owned examples while encrypted messaging platform Telegram was listed as one company founded in Russia.