How Republicans are ‘playing to the Fox News crowd’ with attacks on TikTok

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221214095430 tiktok logo stock hp video How Republicans are 'playing to the Fox News crowd' with attacks on TikTok

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Republicans are escalating their attacks on TikTok.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio became the latest GOP politician to target the ubiquitous Chinese-owned short-form video platform, proposing a bill on Tuesday with a pair of bipartisan House members that aims to ban the app used by millions of Americans.

The legislation, of course, is unlikely to go anywhere. But it reflects a new trend sweeping across the country in which Republicans showcase how hawkish they are on China by taking a hardline stance on TikTok with proposals or the enactment of legislation and rules that do little to actually limit its broad reach.

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.

In effect, these lawmakers are using TikTok as the face of the Chinese government. By taking an uncompromising position on the app with these headline-grabbing moves, their constituents see them taking a firm stance on China, which has become politically advantageous in the Republican Party.

“It’s playing to the Fox News crowd,” a person close to TikTok, who requested anonymity because they were not publicly authorized to speak on the matter, said on Tuesday. The person noted that many of the lawmakers expressing concern about China’s influence are ironically expressing such sentiments from their Chinese-made iPhones.

The posturing comes at a pivotal moment in the years-long negotiations between TikTok and the US government on a potential deal that aims to address national security concerns and allow the app’s continued use in the US.

But, as The WSJ recently reported, the national security talks have hit a snag as pressure mounts on the company.

“The delay is raising political risks for TikTok and its owner, Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., as both Biden administration officials and newly-empowered congressional Republicans amp up their rhetoric on the company,” The WSJ’s John McKinnon, Aruna Viswanatha, and Stu Woo wrote in their report. “ByteDance has spent around $9 million lobbying in Washington over the past two years, according to disclosure reports.”

Rubio’s legislation follows moves by a number of Republican governors who have started banning TikTok on government devices, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and others.

Some leading Democrats have also raised concerns over the years. And none of this is to say that there aren’t real issues with TikTok related to data privacy protections and its all-powerful algorithm, where small tweaks could dramatically influence the public discourse on a number of subjects. Those types of concerns, however, are already being reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment. But the type of action being taken by Republicans seems more geared toward playing to their base than anything else.

That’s the point that TikTok tried to make on Tuesday. Spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said in a statement, “It’s troubling that rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review of TikTok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.”

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