House members on both sides of the political aisle have become increasingly wary of TikTok, and after a much-anticipated hearing with the app’s CEO on Thursday, calls for an outright ban of the app have grown.
Several Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which conducted the hearing and would vet any future TikTok legislation, told Breitbart News they are in favor of a ban on the ByteDance-owned app after the hours-long questioning and berating of its top executive.
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) said he is “absolutely” in favor of a total nationwide ban.
“I am more convinced … that we’ve got a big, big problem there than I was before going into that hearing,” Carter said, adding that he felt CEO Shou Zi Chew was “evasive” and did not provide “the answers we needed at all.”
While Chew insisted during the hearing that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not own or control ByteDance, which is a Chinese company, some of ByteDance’s top employees, such as editor-in-chief Zhang Fuping, are members and affiliates of the CCP.
Watch GOP Representative Grill Chew on CCP’s Access to TikTok User Data:U.S. House of Representatives
Noting the magnitude of influence the app has on its millions of American users, and particularly younger generations, Carter observed that the “Chinese Communist Party is not our friend. They are not our adversary. They are our enemy. We need to understand that they want to overtake us economically. They want to overtake us militarily.”
Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), likewise, said, “We’ve got to move forward on [a ban].”
Questions have surfaced about the First Amendment implications of banning an app that, per Chew’s testimony, more than 150 million Americans use, as well as the logistics of executing the mass shutdown of such a service. While various bills and other measures to address the app’s national security concerns have cropped up, none have moved through Congress yet.
One bipartisan bill, the RESTRICT Act, could make headway given the Democrat-controlled White House recently endorsed it and encouraged its expeditious passage. The bill itself would not ban TikTok and does not specify the app by name, but it would give the Commerce secretary the authority to ban technology services that risk unwanted foreign access.
Both Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), who sit on Energy and Commerce with Carter and Latta, told Breitbart News that they too support shutting down the app in the U.S.
“I need to know technically better how we could do it, but, yeah, I don’t think there’s an alternative. I don’t see an alternative,” Lesko said.
Democrats were almost as equally harsh as Republicans during Thursday’s hearing, leading a TikTok spokesperson to respond that the disastrous event was “dominated by political grandstanding.”
But many Democrats have stopped short of calling for a full-on ban of the app, which would, incidentally, be politically inconvenient for their party given a substantial swath of their voter base is made up of Gen-Z TikTok users. However, many on the left have proven to be in sync with Republicans on wanting some form of action.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who also sits on Energy and Commerce, told Breitbart News she does not at this stage support getting rid of the app but that she is “worried” about it.
“I’m worried about TikTok, but I’m worried about all the social platforms, and I think we need privacy legislation that is across the board. I think we need to address all platforms,” Dingell said, saying Congress has “got to” pass some measure geared toward protecting user data.
Energy and Commerce ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) did not rule out a ban in a public statement on Friday.
“One of the issues is, should the federal government force TikTok to be sold? Should it put more restrictions?” Pallone asked. “Frankly, I haven’t been advocating that TikTok should be removed or basically shut down, but it’s something that we have to look into because of national security concerns.”
Pallone’s Republican counterpart, chairwoman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), has, by contrast, unequivocally been calling for a ban:
I do NOT trust that TikTok will ever embrace American values—values for freedom, human rights, and innovation.
TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path for more control, more surveillance, and more manipulation.
It should be banned. pic.twitter.com/gyO8ltsOC3
— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) March 23, 2023
Asked about the building momentum against TikTok, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters Friday that he found Thursday’s hearing to be “very concerning” because Chew could not fully guarantee that the Chinese government was not accessing TikTok user data.
“I think you could find a very a bipartisan bill to come out of Energy and Commerce,” McCarthy said. “I know the Senate is working on one, but I believe the House will get one done and we’ll pass it through as well.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.
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