March 29, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, spoke on the Senate floor to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights and oppose a Senate bill that would ban TikTok. Dr. Paul’s objection comes from a commitment to defend our Constitutional rights and prevent government censorship.

You can watch Dr. Paul’s floor remarks HERE and read his prepared remarks below. 

“Mr. President,

“Reserving the right to object, if Republicans want to continuously lose elections for a generation, they should pass this bill to ban Tik Tok, a social media app used by 150 million people, primarily young Americans.

“This brilliant strategy comes while polls indicate that 71% of young women and 53% of young men voted for a Democrat candidate for Congress.  

“Admittedly, many Democrats have joined Republicans in calling for this ban but like most such issues, the blame will stick to Republicans more.

“The Republican strategy to ban Tik Tok comes simultaneously with GOP complaints of domestic social media companies canceling and censoring conservatives.  

“Without a hint of irony, many of these same “conservatives” rail against censorship, while advocating for censorship against social media apps they worry are influenced by the Chinese.

“Before banning TikTok, these censors might want to discover that China’s government already bans TikTok.  Hmmm . . .  do we really want to emulate China’s speech bans?

“The Vice President of FreedomWorks, John Tamny, perhaps described this situation best: ‘Nauseating Harassment of TikTok Presumes Americans will be saved from Chinese Authoritarianism If US Politicians Act like Chinese Authoritarians.’

“TikTok must be banned, the censors say, because they are owned and controlled by the Chinese communist government, but does TikTok do the Chinese government’s bidding?  

“Well, go to the app and search for Falun Gong, the anti-communist religious sect that is persecuted in China.  Go to TikTok and search for videos advocating Taiwan’s independence, criticism of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.  Videos are all over TikTok that are critical of official Chinese positions.  That’s why TikTok is banned in China.

“We should not let fear of communism cause us to ignore our First Amendment protections of free speech. This legislation would require our President to ban TikTok. 

“I ask the American people, do you want Joe Biden to be your censor? Do you want a president of either party to decide what you are allowed to say and hear? Who will you entrust to save you from your own eyes and ears?

“As Drs. Mueller and Farhat of Georgia Tech write: ‘If nationalist fears about Chinese influence operations lead to a departure from American constitutional principles supporting free and open political discourse, we will have succeeded in undermining our system of government more effectively than any Chinese propaganda could do.’

“Throughout the 20th century, millions of people were fed communist propaganda every day for their entire lives. And when the regimes collapsed, the people celebrated. They danced on the Berlin Wall and on the grave of communism. Have faith that Americans’ desire for freedom is strong enough to survive a few dance videos.

“Have some faith in freedom. We don’t ban things that are unpopular in the United States.  Our Constitution even allows a Communist Party. It operates today. Nobody wants to join it, but you can if you wish.

“America is a country that celebrates free expression, that cherishes free association, that is confident in cause of liberty. 

“If you want to address the evils of Big Tech, it is not the Chinese government you have to fear, but your own. In June 2021, Newsweek reported that Big Tech complied with 85 percent of government requests to hand over your personal data.

“That means Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft, once presented with a subpoena or a warrant, routinely hands over the contents of emails, text messages, photos, documents, calendars, contact lists, and more to the government. Big Tech puts up virtually no legal fight to protect your privacy.

“To those who are worried that the Chinese government might somehow now have access to millions of American teenagers’ information, realize that all social media sucks up personal data that people voluntarily provide.  If you’re going to ban TikTok, what’s next? 

“Arguably, several domestic apps censor conservatives more.  I know because I’ve been censored and banned.  I’ve got no love lost for any of these companies.  I have a host of complaints about domestic social media platforms that “cancel” conservatives but I’m not in favor of banning them or forcing them to accept my opinions.

“If you don’t like TikTok or Facebook or YouTube, don’t use them.  But don’t think any interpretation of the constitution gives you the right to ban them. 

“TikTok’s mission appears to be, like most other companies, to make money and lots of it.  TikTok is cooperating through CIFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the US) to make sure all data on Americans is protected from any Chinese government snooping.  TikTok has agreed to house all the data on Oracle’s Cloud with access to US government oversight.

“The First Amendment isn’t necessary to protect speech that everybody accepts.  The First Amendment exists to protect speech that might be unpopular or might be controversial.  US courts struck down the Trump Administrations ban and, I believe, will strike down any congressional ban.

“I hope saner minds will reflect on which is more dangerous:  videos of teenagers dancing or the precedent of the US government banning speech.  For me, it’s an easy answer, I will defend the bill of rights against all comers, even, if need be, from members of my own party.

“I object.”

Ahead of objecting to the bill, that was attempting to be passed by unanimous consent, Dr. Paul wrote an op-ed that was published in the Louisville Courier-Journal. You can read his op-ed HERE. 


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