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Two Republican senators clashed over TikTok Wednesday, widening a free-speech fight in the party as Congress and the White House consider outright bans of the social media app.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s efforts to fast-track a ban on TikTok nationwide, with his "No TikTok on United States Devices Act, were blocked by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
“We should act decisively to ban TikTok directly,” said Hawley on the Senate floor, arguing the app's possible connections to the Chinese government call for swift action from Congress.
But Paul objected, striking down Hawley's efforts and saying that banning the app would violate the First Amendment.
“This legislation not only violates the First Amendment of those who own TikTok, many of whom are actually Americans, not Chinese,” said Paul. “But it also violates the First Amendment rights of the millions of young Americans who use this social media app.”
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Where TikTok ban stands in Congress
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have increasingly expressed support for banning the app due to the platform’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s high profile testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month.
Chew denied any sort of allegation that the Chinese government could use the app for its own purposes, but to no avail, with lawmakers becoming even more grounded in their opposition to TikTok.
But the app has found some defenders on Capitol Hill, first in progressive House Democrats such as New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who says that banning the app would be an attack on the First Amendment since the app is used by millions of Americans.
What else did Paul and Hawley say?
Paul’s objection to a ban on TikTok is a sign that banning the app isn’t a one-sided effort from the platform’s opponents. In addition to First Amendment concerns, Paul argued that banning the app wouldn’t protect American user data, considering other U.S.-based tech companies have failed to secure its data before.
“Every accusation of data gathering that’s been attributed to TikTok could also be attributed to domestic big tech companies,” said Paul.
Not only that, Paul warned his GOP colleagues that banning the app could have electoral consequences considering the app’s wide user base.
“If Republicans want to considerably lose elections for a generation, they should pass this bill to ban TikTok.” Paul said. “A social media app used by 150 million American people.”
Hawley responded to Paul’s objections, saying that the First Amendment does not protect the right of the “Chinese government to spy on Americans.”
“Scour the First Amendment, I promise you, you won’t find any right to espionage, you won’t find any right to spy,” Hawley continued.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rand Paul blocks Josh Hawley efforts in Senate to ban TikTok