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TikTok trouble: Why a ban could have nasty consequences for freedom
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TikTok trouble: Why a ban could have nasty consequences for freedom

China poses a deadly threat to the United States. But the vague language of the TikTok bill could be easily turned against Americans.

I hosted a debate earlier this week about the TikTok bill with Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). I respect their mutual commitment to the Constitution. Usually, they fall on the same side on key issues in Congress but not this time. Not when it comes to the TikTok bill. Roy was one of the sponsors of the bill, and Massie is one of the bill’s main opponents. I haven't seen an issue divide conservatives so sharply in a long time. Before this week’s debate, I didn't know where I stood on the issue, either.

I do now. I’m against the TikTok ban. I’ll explain.

Many of the assurances about the TikTok bill sound like what proponents said about the PATRIOT Act.

Both Roy and Massie are concerned about national security. Both know what we’re facing with China and how great a threat the Chinese Communist Party represents. Most importantly, both love the Constitution and are ardent defenders of freedom. That’s why I had them debate each other because of my deep respect for them. It was so refreshing to see people talk about something they disagree on, but nobody became disagreeable.

We went over a lot of the bill line by line, and there are some disturbing things in there. For instance, if you look at section two of the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” you will find the bill doesn't just apply to phone apps. Individual websites could also be seized. That should send chills up your spine.

Supporters of the bill point out that this power applies only to apps and websites belonging to "foreign adversaries." That’s more than a little vague. When you say that a website or an app is controlled by a foreign adversary, who has the power to decide who is and is not a foreign adversary?

When Tucker Carlson went to Russia in February, how many people said he was just a pawn for Vladimir Putin? When Trump visited Kim Jong Un, how many people said he was being controlled by North Korea and Russia? We have been accused of being an asset for Israel, and many people in government right now are treating Israel like a foreign adversary. If the president decides that Tucker Carlson is being controlled by a foreign adversary, does that mean he can just go away? What about Trump? What about you and me?

The bill says an app or website can be seized “if determined by the president to be a present threat to the national security of the United States.” What does it mean to be a “national security threat” to the United States? In just the last year, we've heard that “election deniers” are a threat to our government along with “vaccine deniers,” “Christian nationalists,” and “climate deniers.” Would we fall into that category?

We aren’t the ones who are hostile to the government. We’re trying to stop the ruling class from overthrowing the government.

We believe in the Constitution, and our ruling class members don't. So, if anyone is the foreign adversary, they are.

Another troubling provision in the bill is a “covered company” whose primary purpose is to "allow users to post reviews, product reviews, business reviews, or travel information and reviews." Is Yelp in the middle of a sale to communist China? It sounds like somebody pulled his Washington strings to make sure he wasn't affected by the bill, while you and I are left hanging out to dry.

Those are just a few of the concerning points we covered in this week’s debate, and they’re why I’m against the ban.

I love Chip Roy, and I trust him. He’s a constitutionalist. He’s a freedom-loving Texan who you don't want to mess with. But I don't trust a government that is seeking more control over its people while making its bed with giant corporate tech and China. I don’t trust a government that doesn't seem to care about its people over oligarchs. I can’t give any more power to the rich, the corporations, the lawyers, and I won’t give any more power to a president who doesn't defend the Constitution at all costs.

So, that’s where I’ve come down on the question. You might disagree. But whatever you do, please carefully consider the costs of the TikTok bill in its current state. Many of the assurances about the bill sound like what proponents said about the PATRIOT Act. Remember how they tried to appease our fears by telling us how it would never be used against us? I said at the time that all they have to do to weaponize the PATRIOT Act against us is to change the definition of extremist. In the TikTok ban, all they would need to do is to change the definition of “foreign adversary.” They can absolutely turn this on you.

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