Trump’s Partisan Spin on TikTok

24.04.2024, 0:55, Разное
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Former President Donald Trump said he wants young voters to know that “Crooked Joe Biden is responsible for banning TikTok.” But a TikTok ban enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. Trump himself tried to ban TikTok as president through an executive order, but it was blocked by the courts.

A House bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese parent company to divest or face a U.S. ban overwhelmingly passed the House 360-58 on April 20, with the support of 186 Republicans and 174 Democrats.

The bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who said in an April 20 speech on the House floor that the bill “protects Americans, especially our children, from the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party-controlled TikTok.”

“This app is a spy balloon in Americans’ phones,” McCaul said. “It is a modern-day Trojan horse of the CCP
used to surveil and exploit Americans’ personal information.”

TikTok is a popular video-sharing mobile app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. Many legislators fear the Chinese government could access TikTok users’ data via Chinese national security laws that state, “All organizations and citizens shall support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts in accordance with law, and shall protect national intelligence work secrets they are aware of.”

The logo of TikTok is displayed on a mobile phone screen in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 20. Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images.

The bill, which was paired with new sanctions on Iran, China and Russia, prohibits “foreign adversary controlled applications” and would give ByteDance a year to divest or else TikTok would be banned in the U.S.

Biden vowed on March 8 if Congress passed the TikTok bill, “I’ll sign it.”

In December 2022, Biden signed a spending bill that included a provision prohibiting the use of TikTok by most federal government employees on devices owned by the government.

But much of the momentum behind the recent TikTok legislation has come from Republicans. On March 13, the House passed a Republican-introduced TikTok bill that was similar to the one passed on April 20. It received even greater Republican support, 197-15, than the recent bill. Democrats also supported that bill 155-50. But the bill stalled in the Senate commerce committee after its chair, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, expressed some concerns about it. The latest version of the legislation would extend the deadline for TikTok’s Chinese parent company to divest from six months to a year, and Cantwell said she supports that iteration.

While both TikTok bills received overwhelming Democratic support in the House, neither could have advanced without Republican support, as the GOP narrowly controls the House. And Biden could not sign any bill that does not reach his desk, a point Trump omits in his post on Truth Social.

“Just so everyone knows, especially the young people, Crooked Joe Biden is responsible for banning TikTok,” Trump wrote on April 22. “He is the one pushing it to close, and doing it to help his friends over at Facebook become richer and more dominant, and able to continue to fight, perhaps illegally, the Republican Party. It’s called ELECTION INTERFERENCE! Young people, and lots of others, must remember this on November 5th, ELECTION DAY, when they vote!”

A recent poll from the CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that a plurality of Americans supported a ban or sale of TikTok, including 60% of Republicans and 40% of Democrats. But nearly half of people age 18 to 34 opposed a ban.

Trump himself once supported a ban of TikTok. As we have written, when Trump was president he tried to ban the popular app, but he was blocked by the courts.

Trump’s Order Banning TikTok

In May 2019, Trump issued an executive order that declared a national emergency “to protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States,” as described in a White House statement.

No company was named in Trump’s order, but that order was referenced in another executive order issued by Trump in August 2020 that specifically targeted TikTok. “Under authority delegated by the 2020 Order, the Secretary of Commerce issued a list of prohibited transactions, which included maintaining TikTok on a mobile app store or providing internet hosting services to it,” the Congressional Research Service said in a Sept. 28 report.

According to the August 2020 order, “TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

“TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities,” Trump’s order stated. “This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. These risks are real.”

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said on Sept. 10, 2020. “It’ll either be closed up or they’ll sell it. So we’ll either close up TikTok in this country for security reasons, or it’ll be sold.”

In separate lawsuits, TikTok and TikTok users challenged the Trump administration’s restrictions on TikTok’s U.S. operations. “The courts ultimately sided with the plaintiffs and issued preliminary injunctions temporarily barring the United States from enforcing the restrictions,” the CRS report said. “Both courts described the government actions as effectively banning TikTok from operating in the United States.”

On June 9, 2021, Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order and replaced it with one that the New York Times said “calls for a broader review of a number of foreign-controlled applications that could pose a security risk to Americans and their data.”

Trump has since reversed his position on the app. According to ABC News, the conversion came shortly after Trump met in early March with hedge fund manager Jeff Yass, “a GOP megadonor who reportedly has a major financial stake in the popular social media platform.”


Trump railed against what he said was Facebook’s interference in the 2020 election. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $350 million in nonpartisan grants to help election officials meet the challenges of administering the 2020 election during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some Republicans criticized it as an effort to boost Democratic voting. In his March 14 post, Trump claimed, “FACEBOOK IS A GREAT THREAT TO DEMOCRACY, AND IT WILL ONLY GET BIGGER AND STRONGER IF TIKTOK IS TAKEN OUT.”

In an interview with CNBC on March 11, Trump expressed ambivalence on the topic of banning TikTok.

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it,” Trump said. “There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it. There are a lot of users. There’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok. But the thing I don’t like is that without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people along with a lot of the media.”

Trump said he did view TikTok as a security threat, “and we have to very much go into privacy and make sure that we are protecting the American people’s privacy and data rights. … But you know, we also have that problem with other, you have that problem with Facebook and lots of other companies too. … But when I look at it, I’m not looking to make Facebook double the size. And if you, if you ban TikTok, Facebook and others, but mostly Facebook, will be a big beneficiary. And I think Facebook has been very dishonest. I think Facebook has been very bad for our country, especially when it comes to elections.”

Trump also said he never discussed TikTok when he met with Yass and that the meeting had no impact on him changing his position on TikTok.

The Senate is expected to pass on the TikTok bill this week.

TikTok released a statement saying it was “unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24bn to the US economy, annually.”

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