Republican Senators clashed on floor Wednesday over a bill proposing a ban on the Chinese social media app Tik Tok, with Rand Paul schooling Josh Hawley on exactly why the legislation won’t fly.
Hawley’s legislation would prohibit TikTok from operating in the U.S. and ban all commercial activity with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.
The topic has become one of contention, being connected with enhanced efforts on China’s part to carry out surveillance.
Paul immediately expressed opposition, however, noting “There are two main reasons why we might not want to do this. The one would be the First Amendment to the Constitution. Speech is protected whether you like it or not. The second reason would be that the Constitution actually prohibits bills of attainder.”
Bills of attainder allow the government to punish individuals or groups without a trial.
“This fails on two egregious points, pretty obvious points. I think we ought to think about that,” Paul added.
Paul further stated “I think we should be aware of those who peddle fear. I think we should be aware of those who use fear to coax Americans to relinquish our liberties.”
“Every accusation of data-gathering that’s been attributed to TikTok could also be attributed to domestic Big Tech companies,” he pointed out.
Hawley responded to Paul, asserting “I have never before heard on this floor a defense of the right to spy.”
“I didn’t realize that the First Amendment contained a right to espionage. The senator from Kentucky mentions the Bill of Rights. I must have missed the right of the Chinese government to spy on Americans in our Bill of Rights,” Hawley added, ignoring Paul’s wider point.
“In a free country, I don’t have the right to tell The New York Times to publish by op-ed or YouTube to publish my speech,” Paul hit back, adding that Americans can easily quit using Tik Tok.
“But don’t disenfranchise 150 million Americans who are using a social media app and just say it’s no big deal,” Paul said.
He later asked “Which is more dangerous: Videos of teenagers dancing or the precedent of the U.S. government banning speech?”
“For me it’s an easy answer. I will defend the Bill of Rights against all comers, even if, need be, from members of my own party,” Paul emphasised.
The full exchange is below:
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