Americans are blessed to have constitutional rights, especially the First Amendment right of free speech. As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, whoever  “would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech.”

Free speech is central to liberty, and this belief underpins the necessity of the First Amendment. This amendment holds the powerful to account and protects the right of Americans to express themselves freely.

Unfortunately, our free speech rights are constantly under assault. In the era of President Donald Trump, Democrats and their allies in government and the media have worked tirelessly to censor the “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) movement. Too many MAGA conservatives have been shadow banned and removed from social media platforms.

The bias was apparent in the 2020 election when social media platforms limited the reach of the critical story involving Hunter Biden’s laptop. If there had been accurate reporting on this story, it would have swayed a considerable number of voters.

According to a survey by the Polling Company, 17% of Joe Biden voters in “seven swing states” would have switched their support to President Donald Trump if they had known about the laptop story. Thus, on this one issue, the 2020 election result would have been different.

Americans deserve the truth on all issues and the best way to achieve that result is full disclosure of vital information. The last thing Americans need is for government bureaucrats deciding what information is acceptable or what app can be placed on our phones.

Today, Americans are increasingly dependent on social media. One critical social media forum is TikTok. However, this app has become controversial in recent years and many politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, want to ban TikTok.

Their concern is that the app is owned by a Chinese company and that user data may be revealed to communist government officials. However, with Chinese spy balloons flying across our nation, at least 260 spy satellites in space, and an untold number of their intelligence agents operating in our country, their communist government does not need TikTok to gather information on Americans.

Despite the efforts to ban TikTok, 150 million Americans have decided to become users. The app is a way for content creators to make an income, small business owners to promote their products and for average Americans to share their views on a range of issues. Furthermore, many artists and musicians use TikTok to sell their work. This usage will only grow thanks to the constant improvements on the app.

TikTok is an especially popular platform for engaging young voters, and this is true across the political spectrum. Americans have made it clear that they oppose a TikTok ban, and it is unfortunate to see policymakers pursuing legislation that their constituents reject. The Republican electorate knows the value of TikTok for speech and assembly. This is why support for a TikTok ban is beginning to crumble among Republicans.

Fortunately, our country does not have a state-controlled media. Americans are free to choose where they receive their news and millions of Americans are turning to TikTok to stay informed. Countless reputable newsrooms across the political spectrum have embraced TikTok as a means to provide information. If the government haphazardly decides to ban TikTok, they are dictating where Americans can communicate and receive their news. Such an action sets a dangerous precedent.

As Franklin stated so eloquently, censorship efforts subdue “the Freeness of Speech” of Americans and are a significant risk to “the Liberty of a Nation.”  Thus, initiatives to ban TikTok in Indiana and Montana were quite disturbing. Fortunately, these efforts, in both states, recently suffered legal setbacks. According to Santa Clara University Professor Eric Goldman, both attempts were “ridiculous” and “designed for political theater.”

In overturning the Montana law banning TikTok, Federal Judge Donald Molloy wrote, “In shutting off TikTok, the Legislature has both harmed User Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights and cut off a stream of income on which many rely.” In addition, Patrick Toomey of the ACLU noted that the Montana law failed to surpass the U.S. Constitution’s “extraordinarily high bar on this kind of mass censorship.”

In our era of theater-driven politics, it is frustrating how much time is wasted with political posturing around TikTok rather than drafting sensible policy on industry-wide privacy reforms. Banning apps is not practical, nor is it constitutional.

The problem of data security on social media goes way beyond TikTok. Banning one app and pretending the problem is solved is nothing short of burying our heads in the sand. A better approach would be to have all the social media platforms at the table with our legislators and regulators to determine the best path forward.

Americans need leaders from both political parties to advocate for meaningful, comprehensive solutions across social media platforms. Among Democrats, U.S. Representative Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) could serve as a leader on this issue. Hopefully, he will be joined by U.S. Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, both Louisiana Republicans.

In fact, all the members of the Louisiana congressional delegation should stand firm against unconstitutional restrictions on TikTok. While addressing security concerns are valid, the answer is not to ban TikTok, which is used by almost 50% of Americans. It is impractical, violates our fundamental rights and will not solve any of our challenges in dealing with the communist Chinese government.

Censorship is a device constantly deployed by the communist government of China. In contrast, censorship should never be adopted as a legitimate tactic by our government. It is un-American and violates our First Amendment. Let us never forget Franklin’s sage counsel, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”

More speech equals more liberty, which should be our country’s foremost goal. Ensuring our precious freedoms will allow the United States of America, despite our many problems, to remain “a shining city on a hill.”