On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) came out in opposition to a bipartisan effort to ban TikTok, condemning Republicans and Democrats for a move he said could chill First Amendment-protected speech.
“I hope saner minds will reflect on which is more dangerous: videos of teenagers dancing, or the precedent of the US government banning speech,” Paul said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Paul’s remarks followed an attempt by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) to ban TikTok nationwide on the Senate floor Wednesday. Earlier this year, Hawley, a long-time China hawk, introduced the No TikTok on United States Devices Act, a bill that would direct the president to ban use of the app on US devices, including those belonging to consumers.
“I hope saner minds will reflect on which is more dangerous: videos of teenagers dancing, or the precedent of the US government banning speech”
Hawley attempted to pass it through unanimous request Wednesday. Paul objected and the motion failed. But Hawley’s bill is only one of the measures Congress has already introduced to ban TikTok. In March, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced his RESTRICT Act, a bill that would provide the Secretary of Commerce with the ability to ban foreign apps and technologies that threaten US national security.
“I can be darn sure that there is no special First Amendment carve-out for communists,” Hawley said, responding to Paul’s objections Wednesday. “Now the First Amendment may protect dance videos. Sure, upload those all you want. But the First Amendment does not protect the right to spy on American citizens.”
Paul authored an op-ed for USA Today on Wednesday further explaining his position on TikTok. Alongside his First Amendment concerns, Paul argued that banning the app threatened the future of the Republican party.
“Congressional Republicans have come up with a national strategy to permanently lose elections for a generation: Ban a social media app called TikTok that 94 million, primarily young Americans, use,” Paul wrote. “Now admittedly, many Democrats have joined Republicans in calling for this ban but like most such issues, the blame will stick to Republicans more.”
Paul is the latest lawmaker coming out in support of TikTok. Last week, a small group of House Democrats, led by Rep.Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) held a press conference with around 30 TikTok creators opposing the looming ban.
“You can ban TikTok, but there are still data brokers who sell our data to other countries and businesses in other countries. They sell to the highest bidder,” Bowman said last week.
Bowman’s press conference was held a day before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Throughout the hearing, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voiced deep concerns over the app and its potential to harm national security.