Carnes: Banning is never the answer
It is known as the Treasure State, the only one in the lower 48 with a population of grizzly bears along with elk, deer, antelope, fly fishing, huckleberries, low property taxes, expansive skies, and now the only place in America to outlaw TikTok to its citizens.
What da’ fudge?
Waving a shredded First Amendment would not be considered “treasure” in my book, but hey, I’m not an elected GOP governor.
And it’s not just illegal on government devices, but every personal computing device connected to the internet within state borders will be forbidden by the government to access TikTok if the law signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte is not challenged and rescinded before next January.
Imagine Vail Resorts lobbying the town of Vail to outlaw distribution of the Vail Daily within town borders because they were afraid readers might — just might — be subjected to opinions they did not wish the readers to consider.
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Oh, the horror.
Of course that would be supremely silly and completely unenforceable, but the idea behind it is pretty much the same: Ban a platform out of concern for the general public being exposed to ideas and thoughts elected officials have deemed inappropriate.
Sounds like Florida to me, but of course that would include banning books, actual Black history and anything involving the word “gay,” yet this is Montana, the land of testosterone-laced wannabe cowboys intent on proving the “Yellowstone” TV show is a documentary.
Reality tells a different story however, as the chances of this becoming a law, much less being enforceable in any way, is like a flight attendant standing at the front of the plane patiently explaining in detail the intricate nuances of buckling a seatbelt and having every single passenger pay rapt attention for the duration.
It ain’t ever gonna happen.
Services provided by a Virtual Private Network (VPN) allow a user in Montana to appear as if they are connected to the internet from just about anywhere outside state lines, thus making the entire issue moot.
So why the obvious political stunt?
TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, and has been accused of posing a national security risk through data gathered from users and has already been banned for use by federal employees and state employees in 34 states.
This is good policy that I agree with, and the ban should also be used by any private business that wishes to do so, as who wants their employees using work-provided devices to access any social media content, whether it’s TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Twitch, Mastodon, etc., as each collects and sells data to stay in business.
The potential threat is real for companies protecting their intellectual property rights and preventing unauthorized use of their content, but the government telling any American what they can and cannot access on their very own personal device is akin to demanding public schools teach a specific religion or controlling what a woman can or cannot do with her own body, and we would never stoop so puritanically low, right?
Banning is just another word for controlling, and we should resist all government attempts whenever possible.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.