Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is separating himself from the bipartisan push to ban TikTok, a China-affiliated short-form video app, amid fears that it poses national security risks.
At least two bipartisan bills have been floating in the upper chamber to ban the social media app, and the House is mulling similar action. Despite a powerful chorus of Republicans clamoring for the ban, Paul argued that enacting one would trample First Amendment rights.
“I think it’s a really bad idea. And people need to ask themselves, why does the Chinese government ban TikTok, and do we want to emulate the Chinese government? So I think it’s a mistake,” Paul told Fox News. “If you ban a social media platform, you know, I don’t know if you get any clearer that that goes against the First Amendment.”
One of the bills proposed by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) would grant President Joe Biden authority to prohibit the app. Another measure from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) would outright ban it.
“I’m for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says that companies that operate in the United States, we shouldn’t limit their speech, or people who try to broadcast speech on those platforms,” Paul told the outlet.
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on TikTok. In it, members of Congress took turns grilling the company’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew. He downplayed the company’s ties to Beijing. TikTok’s parent company is the Chinese firm ByteDance.
China maintains civil-military practices, raising concerns the Chinese Community Party could harvest U.S. data from TikTok.
Chew conceded that ByteDance might have some access to U.S. data, but he underscored that the company is implementing a mitigation plan called Project Texas. Lawmakers appeared unsatisfied with his assurances, as committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) subsequently re-upped calls for banning the application.
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