A Republican bill joining President Joe Biden’s efforts to ban TikTok advanced in a committee vote this week, and one House Democrat, in particular, doesn’t appear happy about it.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance the “Deterring America's Technological Adversaries Act,” which passed 24-16. All committee Democrats voted against the bill, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who was quite vocal about his opposition. The congressman bizarrely compared the ban to former President George W. Bush’s statement that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
“We cannot act rashly without consideration of the very real soft power, free speech and economic consequences of a ban,” Meeks reportedly said according to Politico. “I’ve seen that tactic utilized before — fear that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, without evidence or proof,” he said.
Reuters reported that Meeks strongly opposes the bill and claimed a rushed ban will "damage our allegiances across the globe, bring more companies into China's sphere, destroy jobs here in the United States and undercut core American values of free speech and free enterprise."
If passed, the bill would give Biden the ability to impose penalties–as well as a possible ban–if his administration discovers the app deliberately provided user data to "any foreign person" associated with the Chinese Communist Party.
The bill would also give the president the power to punish “related entities" such as ByteDance if it is discovered that the company assisted the Chinese government in spying on, hacking, or censoring American users.
“The threat communist China poses cannot be overstated,” said MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has made the danger communist Chinese government-tied TikTok poses abundantly clear, warning that the platform ‘functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.’ Already, the European Commission has banned TikTok from corporate devices, Canada issued a nationwide ban of TikTok on government devices, numerous American states have banned TikTok on government devices and that’s just to name a few.”
Needless to say, TikTok did not appear to be pleased.
“A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide," TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement, according to Axios.
But Republican senators in Congress have been warning about the dangers of TikTok for quite some time.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) reintroduced the No TikTok on Government Devices Act to ban the TikTok app from official federal devices alongside Sens. Rick Scott, (R-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) in 2021.
At the time, Hawley said TikTok is “a Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party that has no place on government devices—or any American devices, for that matter” in a statement. He continued: “TikTok has repeatedly proven itself to be a malicious actor[,] but Joe Biden and Big Tech refuse to take the threat of Chinese espionage seriously. It’s time for Congress to act.”
Rubio added similar comments in the same press release.
"TikTok poses a potential threat to personal privacy and our national security interests. There is absolutely no reason why this application, which Beijing can use to advance its malign foreign policy initiatives, should be utilized on federal devices,” he said.
The concerns about TikTok eventually spread to the executive branch. Former President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning the app, but the government later reversed course. Around the same time, the Biden campaign told its staff to delete the app in August 2020. The U.S. military later banned the app from officially issued phones.
The app also has a long history of censoring the views of pro-free speech organizations.
An MRC Free Speech America analysis found that TikTok permanently banned 11 pro-free speech organizations. Pro-life groups like Live Action and Students for Life of America and commentators like Tom Fitton, retired Lt. Col. Allen West and Michael Knowles were included among the 11 banned groups and individuals.
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