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TikTok Creators File Lawsuit Challenging Montana Ban

A group of TikTok creators in Montana have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s new ban of the app, arguing that the law signed by Governor Greg Gianforte violates their First Amendment rights.

The ban signed by Gov. Gianforte on Wednesday is the first state-level ban of the social media platform. The complaint was filed just hours later in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana Wednesday evening.

The lawsuit asserts that TikTok is comparable to other forms of media, which the state does not have the authority to keep Montanans from accessing and contributing to.

“Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting to TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes.”

The group of creators stated that the new ban, set to take effect in January 2024, goes far beyond restrictions already in place in Montana and other states.

Other states have prohibited the use of TikTok on government devices, citing a potential threat to national security because of TikTok’s ties to China via its parent company ByteDance. The Montana ban extends to personal devices, making it illegal for TikTok to operate the app and for the Apple and Google app stores to offer it for download within state lines.

According to the law, TikTok could be fined $10,000 for each violation of the ban, plus another $10,000 for each day the infraction persists. Google and Apple may face the same fines.

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A spokesperson for Gov. Gianforte said in a statement that the Governor’s decision was motivated by wanting to protect “Montanans’ personal and private data being harvested by the Chinese Communist party.”

“While the Chinese Communist Party may try to hide their nefarious spying and collection of individuals’ personal, private, sensitive information under the banner of our First Amendment, the governor has an obligation to protect Montanans and their individual privacy right, as guaranteed by the Montana Constitution, from the Chinese Communist Party’s serious, grave threats.”

TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, has stated that the Chinese government has never asked TikTok for its data on users in the U.S. There has also been no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, released a statement saying that the office expects a legal challenge but is “fully prepared to defend the law.”

Emilee Cantrell, another spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, told The New York Times that the state would enforce the ban through “geo-fencing,” which is “already in use across the gaming industry.”

“A basic internet search will show you companies that provide geolocation compliance. If companies do not comply with the ban, the agency will investigate and hold offending entities accountable in accordance with the law.”

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In addition to citing the First Amendment, the lawsuit argues that Montana’s ban violates the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving TikTok users of other rights without due process.

It also asserts that the new law violates federal authority to set foreign policy and regulate interstate commerce, undermining the federal government’s powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union described the ban as “unconstitutional.” Ramya Krishnan, a lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, told The New York Times that to justify a ban and have it hold up to legal scrutiny, the state would have to demonstrate its security concerns are real.

“Many have hypothesized that China might demand that ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, turn over Americans’ data or use TikTok to push disinformation in some way, but neither Montana nor the U.S. government has pointed to any evidence that China is actually doing this. That’s a problem because speculative harms can’t justify a total ban on a communications platform, particularly one that’s used by hundreds of thousands of Montanans daily.”

TikTok told Reuters that the new measure “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok.”

“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

The five plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit include a former Marine sergeant, a rancher, a swimwear business, and an exercise influencer.

Montana

Study Shows ‘Yellowstone’ Show Has Had Giant Impact On Montana Economy, Real Estate

While it might not be accurate of the lifestyles that have taken up residency in the breathtaking and boundless plains and mountains of Montana, “Yellowstone” certainly does put on quite a show for the millions of viewers its racked up since its debut back in 2018.

Now in its fourth season, “Yellowstone” takes a look at the Duttons, a family led by patriarch John (Kevin Costner) that has built up a ranching and cattle empire. While trying to maintain their long-held control, they also face opposition from property-hungry land developers and Native Americans attempting to take back what they feel is rightfully theirs.

All of it amounts to a show full of twists, turns, fights, backstabbings, and murders, topped off by the authentic scenery that manages to steal the scene in almost every shot. But while the storylines and characters may be fiction, the impact it’s having on its setting certainly isn’t.

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A study by the University of Montana dived into the economic impacts the show has had on Montana, where it’s shot on location. It found that Montana households received $25.3 million in annual personal income because of the production, which turns into $24.6 million after taxes.

Meanwhile, businesses and non-businesses received $85.8 million in annual gross receipts. The show, fronted by Paramount, ended up spending $72 million on production, and the study doesn’t take into account the value earned by businesses and homes on free advertising.

The idea of roughing it as a cowboy — or at least pretending to — has resonated with viewers, however. Speaking to CNBC, boutique investment firm Beartooth Group’s founder, Robert Keith, explained that there has been an increase in buyers looking to follow in the Dutton’s footsteps.

“We’ve had an influx of all sorts of wealthy individuals looking for ranches. They’re looking to own really amazing large properties.”

The intention behind the move isn’t exactly a secret, either. “Everyone who gets into my truck and wants to go out looking at ranches, they all bring up Kevin Costner and ‘Yellowstone’ within the first 15 minutes of the drive,” Hall and Hall realtor Bill ­McDavid told Town & Country Magazine.

From July 2020 to 2021, Montana saw a 1.6% population growth from 1,086,193 to 1,104,271. That makes it just one of a handful of states to see a growth of over 1%, despite it being the eighth-smallest state. Of course, the show isn’t the only reason for the uptick.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a driving force in the idea of Montana making a good home. The small overall population presented families with the idea of isolation during the peak of COVID cautiousness, giving them added protection.

With that growth, however, comes rising costs. According to Zillow’s Home Value Index (ZHVI), the average single household value sits at $476,000, up from $369,000 at the same time in 2021. The average also sits $78,000 higher than the national average.

Though the newcomers may be responsible for creating apparent culture clashes in neighborhoods and towns, it’s hard to fault those wanting for a change in scenery and a new life — as long as they have the pockets to pay for it.

Snow Storms

Historic September Snow Storms Slam the West

It’s been one week since one of the hottest summers the planet has ever seen ended. What better way to celebrate the end of one extremely hot season than with a historically early snowstorm hitting the West? California, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah we’re all hit with record breaking low temperatures, extreme winds, heavy snowfall, and overall intense blizzard conditions. So much so that parts of Montana have already given their kids their first snow day of the school year less than a month after school came back into session. 

“Many daily record low maximum temperature records are possible through Tuesday, especially across the Northern Great Basin, Rockies, and Northern California, where we’re already seeing temperatures hit 30 degrees lower than their normal average for this time of year” according to the National Weather Service

The extreme weather began on Saturday the 28th and continued into Monday the 30th. Power Lines and large trees were knocked down all over the west states, closing multiple main roads and delaying many individual’s Monday morning commutes, a delay they weren’t expecting for at least another month. The National Weather Service reported that while September snowfall is not that uncommon for many of these areas, the massive volume of snow is, especially in areas with lower elevations and altitudes. For example, the town of Great Falls, Montana averages 1-2 inches of snow every September and by this past Sunday they reached 19 inches, breaking the town record that was held for nearly 70 years!

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Montana in general saw the worst of the early storms. The town of Browning, Montana saw the worst of it country wide, some areas receiving up to 48 inches, prompting all school districts to shut down for the day. Dupuyer, 40 miles southeast of Browning, saw 37 inches of snow. Dan Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist for Accuweather, in an interview with USA Today, said that “less populated areas all throughout Montana doubtlessly were slammed with more than 4 feet of snow, but it just won’t ever be officially measured.” 

Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock declared an official winter storm emergency for the state through until Tuesday, as the state along with Northern California, Nevada, and Colorado, is still expected to reach record breaking low temperatures through Monday night and into Tuesday morning. Browning School Districts are already debating cancelling classes for Tuesday the 1st because of how severe the weather continues to be, some areas in the town/state as a whole have been left without power and cell service due to downed power lines across the state.  

According to information from the National Weather Service also given to USA Today, “more than a foot of snow fell in parts of northeastern Washington. Spokane, Washington got much less, but it was the city’s first recorded September snowfall since 1926! Temperatures are forecast to dip below freezing by Monday Night, into Tuesday morning. This is prompting a huge expansion of the city’s homeless shelter capacity. In Oregon we reported wind damage from gusts up to 55 miles per hour in Portland, where hail was also reported. The Cascade Mountains also got up to 10 inches of snowfall.”

Experts are urging families to stay indoors and not use their vehicles unless the area they’re in hasn’t been hit that severely, as the conditions are expected to continue for the next 24 hours.