Montana’s TikTok ban ‘wields a sledgehammer’ to First Amendment rights, creators say

May 19, 2023, 6:24 PM UTC

Hi, it’s Fortune’s tech fellow Andrea Guzman. 

Montana resident Hank Green, known for his Vlogbrothers YouTube channel and TikToks answering peculiar science questions like whether it’s safe for humans to eat dog food or what would a spoonful of protons taste like, reported hundreds of press inquiries following the news that Montana’s TikTok ban had passed. 

The bill, SB 419, which bans TikTok in the state beginning Jan. 1, 2024, by fining app stores or TikTok $10,000 per day for each time someone accesses the app or downloads it, has already been hit with a lawsuit to overturn it. 

Green passed up opportunities to speak about the ban, instead guiding people to constitutional law experts. But in a follow-up tweet, he offered an idea that users and content creators are trying to emphasize in light of the law’s passing and threats from Congress to ban the app.

“I don’t use content platforms because I think they are good, I use content platforms because I think my content is good. Why the f— else would I still be here??” he tweeted, seemingly referring to a distaste for the version of Twitter with Elon Musk at the helm. 

That the problem isn’t just TikTok but other platforms as well echoes the thoughts of experts I talked to about how a ban would actually work. One expert at the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity at the University of California at Berkeley said it’s ironic that the U.S. is “so suspicious of the influence of these out-of-jurisdiction, algorithmic tools,” when its allies should feel the same about platforms like Facebook. 

Users are aware of some of the risks lawmakers are pointing at, including the risk of their private data and exposure to misinformation, but they feel it’s misguided and rooted in xenophobia. Instead, opponents of the ban say there should be action on user safety that’s more encompassing of all platforms. 

The online rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation reshared recommendations this week for consumer data privacy laws, which include methods for skirting “pay-for-privacy” initiatives from companies and empowering consumers to bring lawsuits against companies violating their privacy rights. 

Meanwhile, Montana residents are arguing that a ban on TikTok violates their constitutionally protected property and liberty interests since many of them earn revenue on the app. One creator, Carly Ann Goddard, who shares content about life on a Montana ranch with her 95,000 followers, says making videos on TikTok has roughly tripled her family’s household income.

And aside from the financial burden the ban could bring, the five TikTok creators who filed the lawsuit indicated in a complaint that their main concern is the violation of their free speech that the law poses: “Even if Montana could regulate any of the speech that users share through TikTok, SB 419 wields a sledgehammer when the First Amendment requires a scalpel.”

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Andrea Guzman


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While subscribers will get access to GPT-4’s capabilities, early access to features, and faster response times, users should also expect to deal with ChatGPT’s tendency to “hallucinate,” or fabricate information.

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