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GOP: TikTok Is China’s Tool Of Coercion & Espionage

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U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding TikTok.

McConnell was Tuesday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day”. Here are his words:

“America’s adversaries are working overtime to undermine our interests and erode the alliances that protect them.

And it’s easy to conceive of these challenges as playing out exclusively on the high seas of the Indo-Pacific or the borderlands of Europe or the Middle East.

But in reality, this competition is not an ‘away game’. America’s greatest strategic rival is threatening our security right here on U.S. soil… in tens of millions of American homes.

I’m speaking, of course, about TikTok.

Today, one hundred seventy million Americans are active users of a social media platform that the People’s Republic of China treats as a tool of surveillance and propaganda.

TikTok officials like to insist that U.S. users’ personal information, browsing histories, keystrokes, and other sensitive data are kept well out of reach of the PRC’s teams of censors and propagandists.

They claim that what it shows young Americans is what they want to see, not what the PRC wants them to think.

But the company’s own words shatter this fantasy. ‘Everything is seen in China’ – that’s the truth TikTok officials were willing to admit in a leaked recording from behind closed doors.

And it shouldn’t be all that surprising anyway: Chinese law requires that TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company coordinate closely with the PRC.

All sorts of social media platforms can be fountains of disinformation and propaganda. Just look at last week’s news about the PRC’s efforts to manipulate Taiwan’s elections with Twitter accounts driven by AI.

But with TikTok, we’re not talking about meddling or hijacking an American platform. In this case, PRC influence and control has been baked in from the beginning.

With Beijing’s blessing, TikTok’s algorithm pours gasoline on alarming trends, from the glorification of Hamas terrorists to a particularly outrageous fad that emerged last year where young people ‘discovered’ the wisdom of Osama bin Laden!

Madam President, I wish I was making this up.

But let’s be absolutely clear: this isn’t a debate about restricting speech. After all, the PRC does enough of that itself. Chinese citizens are banned from accessing TikTok at all!

No matter how loudly TikTok’s apologists claim that reining in PRC influence violates the First Amendment, the question we’ll face is about conduct, not content.

I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting First Amendment rights. I’ve firmly defended Americans’ rights to even the most noxious forms of free speech, like flag-burning.

But there’s a serious difference between the views Americans might express on TikTok… and the actions taken by a platform that’s beholden to our foremost strategic competitor.

Let me borrow an analogy from someone who’s been relentless on this issue – FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. He put it this way, quote:

’You can use a pen to write salacious anti-American propaganda, and the government can’t censor that content. Nor can it stop Americans from seeking such messages out. But if you use the same pen to pick a lock to steal someone else’s property, the government could prosecute you for illegal conduct.’

So Madam President, the PRC has spent years trying to pick the lock of America’s communications infrastructure. And the federal government has a long history of frustrating Beijing’s efforts.

Requiring the divestment of Beijing-influenced entities from TikTok would land squarely within established Constitutional precedent. And it would begin to turn back the tide of an enormous threat to America’s children and to our nation’s prospects in the defining competition of the 21st century.

This is a matter that deserves Congress’ urgent attention. And I’ll support commonsense, bipartisan steps to take one of Beijing’s favorite tools of coercion and espionage off the table.”

The “Newsmaker of the Day” is heard every weekday morning at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 on AM 1450 and FM 102.7 KVML.