TikTokers sue Montana over state’s new ban on the app

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Several TikTok creators have sued to block Montana’s new ban on the popular social media platform

On Wednesday, Montana became the first state in the U.S. to fully ban the use of TikTok, with Gov. Greg Gianforte’s signage of a bill pushed by his state’s conservative legislature. The Republican governor’s move comes as several members of Congress — on both sides of the aisle — have called for TikTok to be banned, largely because the app’s owners are based in China. Check out some of my previous ReidOut Blog coverage to understand why I believe such bans are misguided and incredibly jingoistic.

There’s never been any doubt that Montana was walking into a thicket with its TikTok ban. Along with the legal challenges, lawmakers’ technical ignorance about how social media platforms operate and the seeming infeasibility of completely banning an app are major hurdles that Montana officials — and others around the country pushing for similar bans — will likely face. 

The legal challenge to Montana’s ban was filed Wednesday and announced Thursday. Lawyers for the five plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit: 

Montana has no authority to enact laws advancing what it believes should be the United States’ foreign policy or its national security interests, nor may Montana ban an entire forum for communication based on its perceptions that some speech shared through that forum, though protected by the First Amendment, is dangerous. Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting to TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes.

Conservatives, as well as anti-TikTok Democrats in Congress, have tried to make the national security argument their major point of contention. Montana’s governor appeared on Fox News on Thursday and said he wanted his state’s TikTok ban to be even more expansive.

“I wish the bill actually was broader,” Gianforte said. “I would have liked to have picked up other social media apps that [are] owned by foreign adversaries, but this is a good step in the right direction.”

The governor’s ignorance is glaring here. Apps don’t need to be foreign-owned to do damage — just look at Twitter. And he ought to slow down his push for a broader censorship of social platforms. Montana’s TikTok ban alone could be headed for the waste bin.

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