ACLU Slams Montana's Unconstitutional TikTok Ban as Governor Signs Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Montana
May 17, 2023 5:00 pm

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ACLU of Montana
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HELENA — Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed an unconstitutional statewide TikTok ban into law today, over the objections of the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Montana, and other free-speech organizations.

“With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature have trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small business in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment,” said Keegan Medrano, policy director at the ACLU of Montana. “We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points.”

The ban will prohibit TikTok from operating in the state, and will also prohibit app stores from allowing users in Montana to download the TikTok app. If companies allow users to download the app, they’ll initially be fined $10,000, and then another $10,000 for every day the violation continues. If the courts don’t act, the ban will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

As the ACLU and half a dozen free speech and civil liberties organizations explained in a letter sent to the Montana House of Representatives in April, this legislation flouts the First Amendment. The government cannot impose a total ban on a communications platform like TikTok unless it is necessary to prevent extremely serious, immediate harm to national security. But there’s no public evidence of harm that would meet the high bar set by the U.S. and Montana Constitutions, and a total ban would not be the only option for addressing such harm if it did exist.

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