Candidates Go After Communist Chinese Government-tied TikTok at Third Presidential Debate

November 8th, 2023 11:40 PM

Multiple Republican candidates referred to TikTok as a corrupting influence and threat to Americans’ data privacy Wednesday night, while several called for a complete ban.

At the third Republican presidential debate on Nov. 8, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt asked the five Republican 2024 presidential candidates where they stood on banning TikTok. The co-host cited an op-ed by Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) in which he said called TikTok  “predatory” and “controlled by our country’s preeminent adversary,” noting that the app is being used to divide and propagandize Americans. When Hewitt asked whether candidates agreed with Rep. Gallagher’s statements, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie laid into TikTok. 

“Let me say this, TikTok is not only spyware, it is polluting the minds of American young people all throughout this country,” he said. “[T]hey are doing it intentionally and when you saw what happened the last few weeks with all of this anti-semitic horrible stuff that their algorithms were pushing out at a gargantuan rate. This is China trying to further divide the United States of America.” 

Christie attacked former President Donald Trump for failing to ban TikTok before condemning TikTok for “spying” and “the theft of American personal data and information.” The former governor promised to ban TikTok in office before finishing with, “TikTok should be banned because they’re poisoning American minds.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) also spoke out in support of a ban, both to protect young Americans’ data and to insulate users from Chinese propaganda. DeSantis said,  "I'm concerned about the data that they're getting from our young people and what they're doing to pollute the minds of our young people."  

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) told the audience that “what we should do is ban TikTok, period,” but pivoted to explain that former President Trump had been hamstrung by the courts when he had attempted to do so.  In lieu of a ban, Scott suggested, "If you cannot ban TikTok, you should eliminate the Chinese presence on the app, period." 

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy suggested that banning TikTok was just an “easy answer,” but ultimately said, “we have to ban any U.S. company actually transferring data to the Chinese.”

These concerns appear to be well placed. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), owns a board seat and maintains a financial stake in ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. Aside from the issue of data security and CCP propaganda, TikTok is also known for censorship. A 2022 MRC’s exclusive database documented that TikTok “permanently banned” eleven pro-free speech organizations from the platform when each contradicted leftist ideology. This list included the educational group PragerU; pro-life groups including Student for Life, Live Action, and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America; Daily Wire host Michael Knowles; and MRCTV.

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