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May 18, 2023

Montana Leads Nation With TikTok Ban

Inevitable litigation will attempt to settle whether this is about speech or conduct and national security.

Given that the tentacles of the Chinese Communists run deep into the social media platform, TikTok presents a national security risk, as well as violating individual privacy. It’s also full of mindless and immoral content that is dumbing down and debasing American youth. More than half of U.S. states, as well as the federal government, have banned TikTok on government devices. Montana just became the first state to issue a blanket ban of the app.

Much like similar Senate legislation, Montana’s law has significant implications if it becomes enforceable after it takes effect on January 1, 2024.

In a signing statement Wednesday, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte said, “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.” Legislators also said they were prioritizing national security.

Critics argue that the law is an infringement on the First Amendment right of free speech. A TikTok spokeswoman insisted, “Gianforte signed a bill that infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which these days isn’t very friendly to Americans or, frankly, civil liberties, likewise opposes the ban for the same reason. The governor and legislature “trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans,” argued the ACLU, when these citizens simply want to “express themselves, gather information, and run their small business.”

Then again, the ACLU supports the Rainbow Mafia against free speech for bakers, photographers, and others who just want to run their business and express themselves, rather than be forced to endorse ideas fundamentally opposed to their deeply held religious beliefs. So there’s that.

Worse, the ACLU says the ban is racist because it’s all “in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment.” Leftists used the same race-baiting playbook during COVID.

It’s hardly sentiment that TikTok is actually ChiCom spyware. That’s just a fact.

Obviously, it remains to be seen how the courts will come down on the question of balancing privacy and national security with free speech. Is Montana regulating conduct or speech? The legislation will surely be tied up in litigation for some time.

But let’s say it’s upheld. How can it be enforced? Users can, for example, implement workarounds like a virtual private network (VPN) to avoid detection. Beyond that, it’s certainly ironic to think that protecting the data of Montanans requires collecting data to determine if a user is in Montana before fining the offending app store.

We also have to admit it’s ironic that the nation arguably most successful in limiting access to unapproved Internet information is China. And if that’s not enough irony, China has banned TikTok, though it allows Douyin, another app owned by TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance. Douyin shares features with TikTok but is subject to far stricter “moderation.”

Irony duly noted, there’s also a big difference akin to the huge distinction between the Berlin Wall and a wall on our own southern border. The Berlin Wall, like the Great Firewall of China, is meant to keep people in — enslaved under government power and only receiving information approved by jackbooted thugs. The U.S. border wall, like banning TikTok, is meant to keep foreign threats out. Americans would remain free to use a plethora of other social media sites and apps.

American lawmakers must certainly be careful in crafting legislation governing or banning social media apps, but there are definitely good reasons for doing so.

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