Republicans are escalating their attacks on TikTok.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio became the latest GOP politician to target the ubiquitous Chinese-owned short-form video platform, proposing legislation Tuesday with two bipartisan members of the House of Representatives aimed at banning the app used by millions of Americans.
Legislation, of course, is unlikely to go anywhere. But it reflects a new trend spreading across the country, in which Republicans are showing how combative they are towards China by taking a tough stance on TikTok with proposals or passing laws and rules that do little to help to actually limit its wide range.
A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. Sign up here for the daily round-up of the evolving media landscape.
In fact, these lawmakers use TikTok as the face of the Chinese government. By taking an uncompromising stance on the app with these headline-grabbing moves, her constituents see they take a firm stance on China, which has become politically advantageous in the Republican Party.
“It plays for the Fox News crowd,” said a person close to TikTok, who requested anonymity because she wasn’t publicly authorized to speak on the matter, on Tuesday. The person noted that many of the lawmakers who express concerns about China’s influence ironically express those feelings from their Chinese-made iPhones.
The pose comes at a pivotal moment in years of negotiations between TikTok and the US government over a potential deal aimed at addressing national security concerns and allowing continued use of the app in the US.
But as the WSJ recently reported, national security talks have hit a snag as pressure mounts on the company.
“The delay increases political risks for TikTok and its owner, Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., as both Biden administration officials and newly empowered Republicans in Congress step up their rhetoric about the company,” John McKinnon, Aruna Viswanatha and Stu vom WSJ Woo wrote in her report. “ByteDance has spent approximately $9 million lobbying in Washington over the past two years, according to disclosure reports.”
Rubio’s legislation follows the steps of a number of Republican governors who have begun banning TikTok on government devices, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, the Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, and others.
Some leading Democrats have also expressed concerns over the years. And none of this is to say that there aren’t real issues with TikTok surrounding privacy and its almighty algorithm, where small changes could dramatically impact public discourse on a range of issues. However, such concerns are already being considered by the Foreign Investment Committee. But the kind of actions Republicans are taking seem geared more toward playing their base than anything else.
That’s the point TikTok tried to make on Tuesday. Spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said in a statement: “It is troubling that some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically motivated ban rather than encourage the government to complete its national security review of TikTok, which will do nothing to help the national security review To improve security of TikTok The United States.”