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US Sen. Josh Hawley wants to ban TikTok nationwide

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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said Tuesday he will introduce a bill to ban the app TikTok in the United States.

Missouri’s senior senator called the social media site “China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives” and a threat to “our children’s privacy as well as their mental health.”

The bill would be part of Hawley’s larger messaging campaign in opposition to the Chinese Communist Party and large social media companies. While he has also signed on to antitrust legislation in the hopes of breaking up monopolies in tech companies, he’s been particularly aggressive in his opposition to TikTok.

The app, which boasts more than 1 billion users across the globe, is known for its short videos and powerful algorithm that helps people discover new content. It is popular among younger Americans and has helped grow the careers of influencers and pop stars, like Lil Nas X.

Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, was critical of Hawley’s bill, saying it wouldn’t do much to address the concerns the senator raised.

“Senator Hawley’s call for a total ban of TikTok takes a piecemeal approach to national security and a piecemeal approach to broad industry issues like data security, privacy, and online harms,” Oberwetter said. “We hope that he will focus his energies on efforts to address those issues holistically, rather than pretending that banning a single service would solve any of the problems he’s concerned about or make Americans any safer.”

But experts warn that the amount of data being collected by ByteDance, the Beijing-based company that owns TikTok, could be used by the Chinese Communist Party. FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress last year he had security concerns about the app.

It is difficult for a country to ban an application like TikTok, as it’s a form of internet censorship. Former President Donald Trump’s attempts to ban the app in 2020 were challenged in the courts until President Joe Biden dropped the ban.

Last month, however, the app was banned from federal government devices when a previous bill sponsored by Hawley was included in the federal government’s $1.7 trillion spending bill. Hawley did not support the bill, which was signed into law by Biden.

At least 15 states have also attempted to ban the app from government devices.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s office has said current state computer policies already limit its use.

“In Missouri, TikTok is already not allowed to be downloaded on state phones nor do any state phones have it,” spokeswoman Kelli Jones told the Post-Dispatch in December.

Sen. Josh Hawley, at Florissant’s St. Ferdinand Shrine, answers questions about the primary for Missouri’s other U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Video by Roland Klose

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