Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) declared his opposition to a possible nationwide TikTok ban as many members of both parties push back against the platform, saying a ban would be a “mistake.”
Paul told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday that he believes a ban would violate the First Amendment. He noted that TikTok is unavailable in China, which is where TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based.
“I think it’s a really bad idea. And people need to ask themselves, why does the Chinese government ban TikTok, and do we want to emulate the Chinese government? So I think it’s a mistake,” Paul said. “If you ban a social media platform, you know, I don’t know if you get any clearer that that goes against the First Amendment.”
Paul’s opposition comes as bills have been introduced in Congress in recent months to directly ban the downloading and use of the app and to grant the Commerce Department the authority to review and possibly ban technologies linked to foreign adversarial governments.
Punchbowl News reported that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who introduced the federal TikTok ban, said he will seek unanimous consent for his legislation in the Senate on Wednesday. He told the outlet Tuesday that no one had raised an objection to the bill to him yet.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week amid questions from lawmakers about security procedures in place to protect U.S. users’ data on the app.
Members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have raised concerns about the Chinese government having access to the data because TikTok is owned by a Chinese company. Chew maintained at the hearing and TikTok has emphasized over the last months that it is not subject to the actions of the Chinese Communist Party and has policies in place to protect users’ personal information.
Several House Democrats have declared their opposition to a potential TikTok ban, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), but Paul makes at least one Republican who opposes the efforts.
Paul mentioned that the court system already blocked an attempted ban from the Trump administration in 2020, and courts might block any potential ban again.
“I’m for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says that companies that operate in the United States, we shouldn’t limit their speech, or people who try to broadcast speech on those platforms,” he said.