WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A handful of Republican lawmakers are renewing calls for a ban on TikTok in the U.S., saying content on the app is inflaming divisions surrounding the war between Israel and Hamas.
“This is a huge problem,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said.
He said the Chinese-owned platform is amplifying hate as it surges antisemitic and pro-Hamas content.
“It’s is like an ocean of propaganda,” he said.
Last week, he tried to push through a federal ban on the Senate floor, but the measure was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who called it censorship.
“This is not a subject we should entertain likely,” Paul said. “A ban on TikTok is what they do in China. You’re worried about Chinese communism and Chinese authoritarianism and you want to ban speech in our country.”
TikTok denied it is intentionally promoting anti-Israel content to its more than 1 billion users.
“People in regions such as the Middle East and South East Asia account for a significant portion of views,” it said in a statement. “Therefore, there’s more content with #freepalestine and #standwithpalestine and more overall views.”
Hawley said the problem runs deeper than just Israel and Palestine. He argues the app is a national security threat because the Chinese government can easily access its data.
“It is one of the greatest tools for espionage than any foreign government has ever had,” Hawley said.
That concern prompted Congress to ban TikTok from government devices last year. The Biden administration is investigating potential threats.
Asked about further action, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he has conferred with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who chairs the Select Committee on Intelligence, and is now awaiting bipartisan recommendations.
In a statement to Nexstar, Warner did not provide specifics about what may happen next:
“I’ve been sounding the alarm for months about the perils of China using TikTok to sway the American public on geopolitical issues, and I had the leading piece of bipartisan legislation to address that until TikTok lobbyists and House Republicans sought to kill it,” the statement said. “More broadly, I’m concerned that a number of platforms – including X and Telegram – are facilitating violent extremist content in relation to the current conflict. We cannot allow social media platforms to be safe havens for efforts to sow discord and promote disinformation.”