As lawmakers on Capitol Hill increasingly push for a ban on TikTok, one Republican senator is taking it a step further by calling on his colleagues to “lead by example” and stop using the app altogether.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) renewed calls for a TikTok ban, urging members of Congress to remove the app from their personal phones and stop engaging with its content. The statement specifically targets members of Congress who have garnered large followings on the social media platform, often using the app’s short videos to connect with supporters.
“It’s beyond reckless for members of Congress to still be encouraging their constituents to use TikTok despite knowing the Chinese Communist Party is mining all their personal info,” Tillis said in a statement. “Protecting Americans from the CCP is more important than getting views. I call on all members of Congress to lead by example and stop using it.”
TikTok grew in prevalence among lawmakers during the 2022 midterm cycle, especially among Democratic candidates. Nearly half (47%) of Democratic Senate candidates used TikTok for campaign purposes during the midterms compared to just 12% of Republicans, according to a report by the Alliance for Securing Democracy.
Those numbers were similar for House races, with 30% of Democratic candidates using the social media platform compared to just 11% of Republicans, the report found.
A growing coalition of Democrats has come out against a TikTok ban, warning it could endanger lawmakers politically due to the app’s popularity among young voters — a crucial voting bloc for the Democratic Party. Several prominent Democrats boast large followings on the platform, including Reps. Jeff Jackson (D-NC), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) has emerged as a key leader of the opposition, rejecting arguments that the app poses national security risks as “fearmongering.” Bowman has become one of the first lawmakers to come out in support of the Chinese-owned app, which has prompted concerns among lawmakers on Capitol Hill about possible spying and data collection.
At least two other lawmakers, Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Robert Garcia (D-CA), have also come out in support of defending TikTok access in the United States. It’s possible that sentiment expands beyond those three, but others appear unwilling to come out against a ban without more information on the app’s policies and practices.
The public appears split on whether they think the government should ban TikTok in the U.S., with a recent survey finding those sentiments largely split along party lines. Nearly half the nation (49%) says they want a ban, with 64% of Republicans expressing support, compared to just 51% of Democrats, according to a poll from Quinnipiac University.
However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who support a ban say it’s crucial for national security, pointing to Chinese laws that require companies to share user data with the country’s government. Those policies have come under intense scrutiny, with lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pressing TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on the app’s data collection practices during a hearing on Thursday.
The Biden administration has threatened action against the popular app, demanding its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest or have the platform banned. President Joe Biden already signed a bipartisan bill late last year banning the app from government-owned devices, and he has expressed support for legislation to further regulate or ban foreign platforms.
However, Biden himself has been in several of the app’s short videos, even as recent as St. Patrick’s Day when he appeared alongside singer Niall Horan. When asked about the post on Wednesday, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said the White House stands by its national security concerns.