HELENA, Montana: To protect residents from possible intelligence gathering by China, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has signed legislation banning the use of Chinese-owned short video app TikTok.
The move makes Montana the first US state to ban the popular app, which will come into force on 1st January, 2024.
While it will not penalize individuals using the app, the state will make it unlawful for Google and Apple's app stores to offer TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, within the state.
The ban is certain to face legal challenges. TikTok, which has over 150 million American users, has not responded to Reuters' request for comment.
In response, TikTok stressed that the new law "infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok," adding it will "continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana."
Due to concerns about potential Chinese government influence over the platform, US lawmakers and state officials have increasingly called for a nationwide ban of the app, which is popular with teenagers.
According to the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of teenagers in the US aged between 13 and 17 use TikTok, and 16 percent of all teenagers said they use the app almost constantly.
In March, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by a US Congressional committee about whether the Chinese government could access user data or influence Americans through the app.
However, Congress has not acted on calls to ban the app nationwide or given the Biden administration new powers to do so.
TikTok has repeatedly denied allegations of sharing data with the Chinese government and claimed it would not do so if asked.