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The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the National Congress of American Indians today threw their support behind opposing Montana’s TikTok ban on the grounds of tribal sovereignty infringement. 

The ban was signed into law by Montana’s governor in May 2023, but was blocked by a federal judge before it was set to go into effect for potentially violating the First Amendment. It has been held up in court ever since.

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On May 6, the tribes and NCAI filed an amicus brief with the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stating “It is uncontested that Montana’s TikTok ban cannot legally take effect on Tribal lands in Montana…Despite this acknowledgment, the record shows the Montana law would likely be enforced on Tribal lands in practice, as TikTok users’ locations cannot be precisely tracked through IP addresses.”

Particularly, CSKT and NCAI objected to the ban’s enforcement design, which they say can lead to the ban applying illegally on tribal lands, and infringing on tribes’ abilities to exercise digital sovereignty.

“The Ban interferes with Tribal Nations’ significant interest in crafting their own policy decisions in the digital and data realm to protect the health and welfare of their people,” the brief states.

"Tribal Nations have the capability to tackle digital inequity and are the proper sovereigns to determine their policies for their communities," said Native American Rights Fund (NARF) Staff Attorney Beth Wright in a statement. "Tribal Nations already exercise authority in this area by building broadband infrastructure, providing crucial telehealth, telework, and telelearning opportunities to their members, and protecting private tribal data."

This is not the only lawsuit dealing with tribal nations and social media. Last month, two tribal nations filed a lawsuit accusing major social media companies of contributing to disproportionately high rates of suicide among Native American youth.

Editors Note: A previous version of this article stated May 6, 2024 as the date of the amicus brief filing. It has been updated to reflect the correct filing date of May 7, 2024.

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