Montana to become first US state to ban Chinese-owned social media app TikTok

Montana has become the first US state to ban Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok amidst fears of alleged intelligence gathering.

The ban, which will come into force in January next year, bans TikTok from operating within state lines and prohibits Google or Apple app stores from offering it.

The app has over 150 million American users, but has come under scrutiny over whether it can be used by China for information gathering.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte said on Twitter he was protecting residents' "personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party."

TikTok may also face fines if a Montana user is offered access to their app, and additional fines of $10,000 per day if violations continue.

However, some influencers have rallied against calls from national security hawks and lawmakers to ban TikTok over fears the data of Americans could be passed to Beijing, saying the ban would be a violation of their free speech.

In response to Montana's ban, TikTok - which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance - said in a statement the bill "infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana".

The platform added that it "will defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana".

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

Jenna Leventoff, policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Reuters news agency that Montana's ban would likely be challenged in court over constitutional reasons.

She said: "What they're doing is they are shutting down an entire platform about 150 million Americans use for constitutionally protected speech, for political organising, for news gathering, for communication with loved ones. That is when you shut down speech before it happens.

"By blocking this app, you are preventing those people in Montana from actually speaking in the first place on this app. And so we think that the courts would apply the highest level of constitutional scrutiny there."