A Montana judge upended the ban-TikTok debate

The state's first-in-the-nation law, Republicans' model for banning the video app, "violates the Constitution in more ways than one."

A Montana judge upended the ban-TikTok debate
Missoula, Montana. (Photo by Matthew Lancaster)

Full story: Montana ban on TikTok blocked, extending critics’ losing streak

A federal judge in Missoula just dealt the ban-TikTok movement in America a devastating blow, ruling that Montana’s sweeping ban, which had become a model for other Republican-led states, "violates the Constitution in more ways than one.”

Whatever your feelings about TikTok, Montana’s ban threatened an alarming precedent: that a state government could, by citing vague concerns and no evidence, summarily shut down a service that millions of Americans use for self-expression.

The state’s leaders have been praised in conservative media for taking on the Chinese-owned app. But the judge — Donald Molloy, a Montana native better known for his rulings on land and wildlife law — sided with free-speech activists who’d argued the ban would overstep state power and violate the First Amendment.

The lone Republican to speak out against the growing wave of bans, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), on the Senate floor last month:

Paul suggested [Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who’d moved to ban the app nationwide,] was promoting censorship and compared it to “McCarthyist paranoia.”

“The banning TikTok strategy … comes while the GOP simultaneously complains of liberal U.S. social media companies canceling and censoring conservatives. So without a hint of irony, many of these same, quote, conservatives now agitate to censor viewpoints they don’t like,” Paul said.

“The concern over TikTok seems to be over what the social media might do, propagating hysteria and fear of subtle communist subversion from the People’s Republic of China,” he said.

Paul said the better solution to combat the influence of TikTok is to “counter flawed ideas or falsities with more speech and better arguments.”

“Do we really want to emulate China’s speech bans. Do we want to intrude on the lives of Americans, deprive them of their First Amendment right to receive and consider information?” he asked.

The backstory

  • From October: “Does that seem a little strange to you?”
  • From June: The great Lisa Bonos on how Big Sky creators fought back.
  • From May: A “technically incompetent” law.
  • From March: The First Amendment ramifications.
  • From January: “The U.S. adopting a Chinese attitude toward the internet.”
  • From last year: How TikTok ate the internet.

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