Rand Paul Warns GOP on TikTok Ban, Could ‘Lose Elections for a Generation’

While the Republican party has spearheaded restrictions or a total ban on social media giant TikTok, one prominent Republican Senator issued a dire warning that a ban would alienate young voters.

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky. said that  Republicans could “continuously lose elections for a generation” if they are blamed for banning TikTok in the United States.

“We are in a political world,” Paul told Politico. “We shouldn’t be completely oblivious to the fact that a lot of young people are on there, and it is, frankly, their freedom of speech.”

Paul has been a prolific critic of a TikTok ban, saying that it would encourage the government to censor other online political speech and result in a more intrusive government.

Paul and another prominent lawmaker, Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., got into a heated debate over banning TikTok in March after Paul blocked Hawley’s bill that would have been TikTok. Hawley dismissed Paul’s warnings as “ridiculous” and “so silly I don’t think it’s worth responding to,” according to Politico.

“Listen, if we can’t win younger voters because we’re not on TikTok, we got serious problems in this party,” Hawley said.

While Republican lawmakers have mostly sworn off TikTok due to their attempts to restrict it on national security grounds, many prominent Democrats are still on the outlet despite supporting a ban.

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Fifteen lawmakers in both the Senate and House, led by Sen. Tom Tillis, R-N.C., and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, sent signed a letter to members of the House and Senate demanding that they stop using the platform.

“Members of Congress must lead by example and immediately stop using the platform for official communications,” the GOP lawmakers wrote in a letter, adding that TikTok is effectively “spyware.”

Cybersecurity experts have echoed Republican concerns about TikToks, saying that it collects information ‘above and beyond’ what it needs and is invasive of users’ privacy.

“The TikTok app collects a lot of information, above and beyond what it needs,” Vanderbilt professor and cybersecurity expert Douglas Schmidt said.

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Schmidt even expressed concerns that the app could control users’ phones while collecting other unnecessary information to function.

“[TikTok] collects things like device location, calendars, contacts. There are also concerns that the app itself may be written in a way that allows it to take control of the [user’s] phone.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray and several other national security officials under the Biden administration have offered similar warnings, saying that the app can control users’ phones and that the Chinese government could harvest American users’ data.

“TikTok hounds its users relentlessly into providing and sharing more than they may want to share,” Schmidt concluded.

Leading civil liberties advocacy groups have also raised concerns about a proposed TikTok ban. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), one of the most prominent pro-free speech groups in the United States, said that the RESTRICT Act could ‘fundamentally change how you use the internet.’

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