New York Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman has positioned himself as a TikTok ally as both parties on Capitol Hill debate whether or not to ban the Chinese-controlled platform entirely for national security purposes.
Bowman will reportedly host a press conference on Wednesday on Capitol Hill that will feature “dozens of TikTok content creators to make the case for protecting the app in the U.S.,” according to NBC News. Bowman has denounced moves by both parties to ban TikTok and called it “fearmongering.”
“This is a space where these creators have found a platform to share their ideas, their inspirations, their thoughts, their voices with the rest of the country and the rest of the world. And why do we want to take that away?” Bowman told NBC News. “Why do we need to ban a platform that 150 million Americans now use?”
“There are many apps on our phones right now that are Chinese apps. And so the idea that, ‘Oh, TikTok is the boogeyman’ — it’s just part of a political fearmongering that’s happening,” added Bowman.
The congressman compared the warnings about TikTok to Republican “fearmongering” about the open border and even said the ban stemmed from a “xenophobia around China.”
“I haven’t seen any hard evidence that TikTok is committing some form of espionage,” he said. “What I’ve heard is speculation. And what I’ve heard is innuendo.”
Bowman will be joined at his press conference by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), which comes just before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chou testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown expressed appreciation for Bowman’s support.
“We appreciate the support of these members of Congress, and we will remain steadfast in our commitment to building a safe, secure, and innovative platform that our community of 1 billion strong have come to know us for,” Brown said.
Bowman addressed statements made by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), chair of the Intelligence Committee, who told reporters on Monday that TikTok can be used for propaganda and manipulation by China. Bowman felt the same scrutiny should be applied to Facebook and cited the supposed Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election.
“That could totally happen. Let’s shut down Facebook and force Mark Zuckerberg to create a new platform,” said Bowman. “When we look at American companies like Facebook looking the other way in 2016 when Russia colluded to impact our election — Facebook is a national security risk. We’re not talking about a ban on Facebook.”
Bowman also said that Biden would lose an outlet to connect with young voters.
“I think the more we learn, the more you’ll see people stand up and defend TikTok,” he said. “Let me say this: If information comes out that clearly shows TikTok as a problem, I will say I was wrong. I have no problem saying that. I just haven’t seen that information as of yet.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said earlier this month that he opposes a Republican bill that would grant the president power to ban the Chinese social media app TikTok.
Meeks said he opposed the legislation, asserting it would “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,” according to Reuters.
Meeks further accused the bill of being “dangerously overbroad” and would create U.S. sanctions on Korean and Taiwanese “companies that supply Chinese companies with semiconductor chips and other equipment.”
“As it is right now, it’s a [Republican] party-line bill. It is overly broad. We didn’t have a chance to discuss it at all,” Meeks told Axios. “There were some suggestions that were made [by my staff] that were … summarily dismissed.”
Meeks felt the problem of TikTok should be solved with negotiations being conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and the ByteDance-owned app.
TikTok defended itself, saying it has spent over $1.5 billion on data security to rebuff spying allegations.
“It would be unfortunate if the House Foreign Affairs Committee were to censor millions of Americans, and do so based not on actual intelligence, but on a basic misunderstanding of our corporate structure,” TikTok outlined.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), another Democrat on Foreign Affairs, also told Axios, “Not well-written, not well thought out and terrible overreach. I think there won’t be any [Democratic votes for it].”
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