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.
This GOP strategy comes while polls indicate that 71% of young women and 53% of young men voted for a Democrat candidate for Congress. Now admittedly, many Democrats have joined Republicans in calling for this ban but like most such issues, the blame will stick to Republicans more.
The banning TikTok strategy also comes while the GOP simultaneously complains of liberal U.S. social media companies canceling and censoring conservatives. So, without a hint of irony, many of these same “conservatives” now agitate to ban a platform owned by an international group that includes several American investors.
So, on the one hand, Republicans complain about censorship, while with the other hand, these same Republicans advocate to censor social media apps that 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?
John Tamny’s headline says it all: “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.
As Drs. Mueller and Farhat of Georgia Tech write: “If nationalistic 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.”
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 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 really necessary to protect speech that everybody accepts. The First Amendment is precisely there to protect speech that might be unpopular or might be controversial. U.S. 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.
You can read the op-ed HERE.