Lawmakers Issue Letter Calling for Action Against TikTok, AJ+ — Including Foreign Agent Registration

November 10th, 2023 11:26 AM

A bipartisan duo of lawmakers held a press conference calling on the Department of Justice to formally slap Al Jazeera-owned AJ+ and communist Chinese government-tied TikTok as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

During the Wednesday press conference, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Don Bacon (R-NE) touted a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, where they said that AJ+ — a social media platform owned by the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera — and TikTok — a platform owned by the communist Chinese government-tied ByteDance — have sufficient foreign ties to merit both be declared foreign agents.

MRC Vice President Dan Schneider echoed the lawmakers’ demands to the DOJ. “If the Biden administration is not going to ban TikTok, it must at least label TikTok as a foreign agent given the bipartisan consensus that the app is intertwined with the Chinese government,” Schneider said. “Regrettably, it would not be surprising if the Biden regime refuses to do so. We know that Biden is using this disturbing app to prop up his re-election campaign amid scathingly low polls.”

The national security threat that communist government-tied platforms like TikTok pose to American society cannot be understated. Both Gottheimer and Bacon raised concerns about TikTok in their speeches.

According to a press release, Gottheimer said, “It’s time to put an end to these online weapons of terror. This is about protecting our national security from adversaries who want to do harm to America’s standing as the leader of the free world." Bacon echoed his Democrat colleague, claiming, “It is troubling that an app owned by the Chinese Communist Party is able to spoon-feed propaganda to our children.” 

Also present at the conference was Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-MI), a proponent of a TikTok ban. “For over a year now, we’ve been sort of thinking through to the best approach to TikTok,” Gallagher said. “The fundamental problem with TikTok is, of course, that it is owned by ByteDance. [...] The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we want the dominant social media platform in America, one to which the majority of young Americans turn to for news to be controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

In the same press conference, Gottheimer and Bacon pressed the DOJ for information about why AJ+ has not been listed as a foreign agent, despite a Trump-era order to do so. “With these concerns in mind, we ask that you provide a comprehensive update on the DOJ’s enforcement of FARA with respect to Al Jazeera and its subsidiaries,” the lawmakers said in the four-page letter.

The lawmakers then turned their attention to TikTok. "Unfortunately, Qatar is not the only nation that is attempting to surreptitiously monitor and influence American citizens through its propaganda. The Chinese government, through TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, also presents a grave threat to America’s national security and, in particular, impressionable children and young adults," the lawmakers wrote to Garland.

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