Montana to become first US state to ban TikTok

Users and app could face $10,000 in daily fines if they violate the ban, which starts in 2024

TikTok has more than 150 million American users. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Montana's governor on Wednesday signed legislation to ban Chinese-owned short video app TikTok, making it the first US state to ban the popular platform.

The state will make it unlawful for Google and Apple's app stores to offer TikTok within its borders, starting on January 1, 2024.

A growing number of politicians have called for a ban on TikTok, which has more than 150 million American users, due to concerns over potential Chinese government interference.

In March, a congressional committee grilled TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew over whether the Chinese government could gain access to user data or influence what Americans see on the app.

Governor Greg Gianforte, a Republican, said the effort was the latest push to fend off foreign adversaries.

TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, said in a statement the bill “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok”.

It added that the company “will defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana”.

The company has previously denied sharing data with the Chinese government and has said it would not do so if asked.

Montana, which has a population of a little more than one million, said TikTok could face fines for each breach of the law and additional fines of up to $10,000 per day.

The ban is likely to face numerous legal challenges that it violates free speech rights of users.

An attempt by then-president Donald Trump to ban new downloads of TikTok and WeChat through a Commerce Department order in 2020 was blocked by several courts and never took effect.

TikTok's free speech allies include several Democratic members of Congress including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and First Amendment groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

The company is working on an initiative called Project Texas, which creates a stand-alone entity that will store American user data in the US on servers operated by technology company Oracle.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: May 18, 2023, 6:56 AM