Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has come out against a ban on TikTok, breaking from his GOP colleagues on a measure that would prohibit the use of the often-criticized social media app.
Lawmakers cited national security concerns raised by TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, after reports that the company has gathered user data and spied on some journalists. In an opinion piece published Wednesday in the Louisville-based Courier Journal, Paul argued that banning TikTok would mimic censorship by the Chinese government. He cast the question of whether to ban the viral video app as a free speech issue and said he would defend the app even against members of his party. Paul has maintained that his opposition to a potential ban is not due to one of his top donor's ties to the company.
"I hope saner minds will reflect on which is more dangerous: videos of teenagers dancing or the precedent of the U.S. government banning speech," Paul wrote. "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."
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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a vocal critic of TikTok, plans to introduce legislation to ban the app in the U.S. on Wednesday, which he aims to pass by unanimous consent, a spokesperson for his office said. Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation to give President Joe Biden authority to ban the app. The opposition of Paul and some Democrats makes passage unlikely.
One of Paul's top donors, billionaire Jeff Yass, is the largest American investor in TikTok, according to Bloomberg. Yass has given millions to Paul's reelection campaign through affiliated super PAC donations. He also contributed directly to Paul's reelection campaign.
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