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The state of Montana has put a stop to local TikTok downloads. The Republican stronghold becomes the first US state to ban the Chinese-owned app.

This week POLITICO reported that Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill banning TikTok for all residents in Montana. Gianforte, a Republican, signed the legislation into law Wednesday, saying the ban is aimed at “protecting citizens from foreign influence” since TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance.

“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gianforte said in a statement.

“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.”

Rights activists oppose such broad bans

The move is notable as it leapfrogs a federal effort in Washington to ban TikTok for all US residents nationwide due to its Chinese connection. Those efforts, however, have met strong resistance from Libertarians like Rand Paul as well as civil liberties activists and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Opponents point out, for example, that TikTok’s CEO is Thai and not Chinese, that the company has arranged to have all its US data stored in the US, and poses no greater or lesser threat than any other social media platform.

In Europe, TikTok has also made moves to placate privacy regulators. However, the European Commission continues to issued threats of a blanket ban, while several countries have already banned the app’s use on official government devices.

Ban may put the state on a “slippery slope”

After signing the blanket ban on TikTok, Montana’s Gianforte also sent a directive to the state’s Chief Information Officer, instructing that office to “ban social media apps from all foreign adversaries” on all government-issued devices or while connected to state internet networks. This includes social media apps from TikTok’s owner ByteDance, including CapCut, Lemon8 and TikTok, as well as Telegram messenger, which was founded in Russia. ITemu, which is owned by China-based Pinduoduo, is also banned, as is WeChat, owned by China-based Tencent.

While this additional, broad-brush ban currently only applies to government devices, it is possible – if not likely – that a residential ban on these other apps may also come at some point in the future.