If the pandemic taught me anything, it was that our government is filled with short-sighted, corrupt, and inept actors who will rationalize any action, no matter how damaging it may be for the majority, in the name of safety and for alleged security. Even the terms “safety,” “security,” and “emergency” have been bastardized to the point of it being rhetorically flexible terminology that can be adjusted to create the most desirable outcome not for the American people but for America’s governmental apparatus.
Montana’s ban on TikTok is another such episode. Last week, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill banning TikTok in the state and from Apple and Google app stores within its borders—in the name of keeping Montana residents safe from a foreign adversary and trending degeneracy. In reality, it’s a tragic example of another short-sighted governmental action that promises to be the beginning of a trend of infringing on the rights of Americans.
While the bill, known as SB 419, cites concerns over alleged surveillance from the Chinese government, it also rationalizes the ban on the grounds of what Gianforte’s administration believes is TikTok’s habit of encouraging “dangerous activities” among younger users, things like “throwing objects at moving automobiles” and “lighting a mirror on fire and then attempting to extinguish it using only one’s body parts.”
While many Republicans are applauding this surface-level effort to annoy the Chinese Communist Party, I see this landmark legislation for what it really is: a Trojan horse to normalize and rationalize internet censorship.
The “Twitter Files” repeatedly showed us how desperate departments of the U.S. government are to censor the speech of regular people under the guise of protecting the American public from “misinformation.” And I don’t see this action made by the state of Montana as any different.
If the government can rationalize banning a website or application to “protect” Americans from a “security danger,” what else could they ban on the internet for your own security? What’s to stop Democrats from framing Twitter as a security risk, because they no longer play nice with the security state behind the scenes?
While I agree that government officials or anyone in any important corporate position shouldn’t be using TikTok on their phones due to the risk of espionage, there is this illusion that our data is ours, when in truth, everything we do on the internet has long been sold to marketing firms and data brokers across the world decades ago.
What’s to stop the CCP from purchasing this data from a third party? Nothing. Heck, the U.S. Government does it all the time.
No one can tell you exactly what will happen if the CCP has your 18-year-old son’s TikTok usage data, but we’re supposed to raise hell about this while Google and Apple have been data mining millions of Americans for years.
The truth is that this ban won’t be nearly as effective as they claim. There is nothing to stop someone in Montana from connecting to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection marked in a different state to continue to utilize the platform, which will mean that the next battle will be over the legality of VPNs or at the very least, regulating VPNs.
Their other rationalization for banning TikTok is TikTok’s facilitation of idiotic behavior by young people. But perhaps unfortunately, the government can’t legislate stupidity; if it could, a lot of politicians wouldn’t have jobs.
Young people with not yet fully developed brains who are highly impulsive have been doing dumb and dangerous things well before the existence of social media. Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen the craze of backyard wrestling and the obsession over imitating the reckless behavior of MTV’s Jackass; none of this is new.
Instead of involving the government in preventing our children from using TikTok, maybe more American parents need to act like parents and restrict it themselves.
Chinese Corporations, and by extension, the CCP, have invested over $190 billion between 2005 and 2022 in nearly every major industry in America, including real estate, energy, and entertainment. The Chinese have long embedded themselves into our economy, yet our government does nothing about it. But you’re supposed to clutch your pearls and wish for censorship because they know what kind of makeup your daughter likes to apply?
It’s time to see this for what it is: an excuse to begin a program of mass censorship. Don’t be fooled, and don’t support it.
Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim To Black Victor” and writer on Substack at adambcoleman.substack.com.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.