Rand Paul criticizes proposed TikTok ban as nonsensical

Rand Paul criticizes proposed TikTok ban as nonsensical

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is warning the rest of the GOP that if they try to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, they could lose votes. As Congress disagrees on whether to ban TikTok, Paul’s argument is the latest bad sign for Republicans who want to control China. There are three different groups that have different opinions about TikTok. One group, led by House Republicans, wants to ban the video app right away because they are worried about national security. Another group, made up of people from both parties, wants to deal with data privacy in a more general way without focusing on TikTok. Then there is Paul, who agrees with progressives that a ban is wrong.

GOP Risks Losing Elections by Targeting TikTok

The outspoken Kentuckian thinks that Republicans could “continuously lose elections for a generation” if they go after an app that says it has 150 million users in the U.S. and turn young people off to it. In an interview, Paul said that his Republican colleagues might not have “thought that through.” He linked this to what he called his bigger worries about the constitutional and other legal effects of government-imposed TikTok limits. Paul said, “We live in a political world.” “We should not disregard the fact that there are many young people on there; it is their right to free speech.”

GOP Split on TikTok Ban

Paul is just one voice in Congress’s larger debate over banning TikTok, but some Republicans agree with him that his political concerns are valid, in addition to the legal issues that restrictions might bring up. The plan from Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) to give the executive branch new powers to ban technologies from places like China that could eventually apply to TikTok has the most support in the Senate right now. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) backs this plan. For his part, Cramer said, “Rand’s probably right that we get blamed” by young voters if apps are eventually limited or banned. “That is why you need to make your case too,” he said. “There are political effects for sure, but I also think there are serious national security and cultural effects to having done nothing.”

House Moves to Ban TikTok

Republicans who want to ban TikTok laugh at Paul’s case. In March, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) got into a heated debate with Paul on the floor of the Senate after Paul blocked his bill to quickly ban TikTok. In response, Paul said that Hawley’s argument about turning off young voters was “ridiculous” and “so silly I do not think it is worth responding to.” 

Lawmakers have taken some tentative steps to limit the app’s power while they continue to talk about whether or not a ban is possible and legal. Back in March, the House Foreign Affairs Committee moved a bill across party lines that would ban the social media app. Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, wants to ban the app, but Hakeem Jeffries wants to work with others to agree on “appropriate measures” to deal with “real national security concerns” about TikTok. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said last week that the Warner-Thune bill, which was supported by both Democrats and Republicans, might be added to the new China competitiveness legislation he is working on.

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