‘Ban TikTok’, Republican presidential candidates vow to shut down social media app during GOP debate

Republican presidential candidates vowed to ban the TikTok at Wednesday night’s debate, citing not only national security concerns about data collection but also anti-Semitic content on the Chinese-owned social video app.

Republican presidential candidates from left, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., participate in a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NBC News Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.(AP)

“TikTok is not only spyware. it is polluting the minds of American young people all throughout this country, and they’re doing it intentionally,” said former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

He blamed former President Donald Trump — the frontrunner for the Republican nomination who is boycotting the debates — for failing to act when he could.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina defended Trump, saying the then-president’s attempts to ban the app were twice struck down by courts. “If you cannot ban TikTok, you should eliminate the Chinese presence on the app, period,” he said. And he proposed requiring TikTok to obtain parents’ permission before children under 14 could have an account.

The debate over TikTok soon became part of a larger argument about growing Chinese influence in US society. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said TikTok showed that the US rivalry with China was not just military and economic but also cultural. “It’s a full spectrum approach to be able to fend China off. Yes, military deterrence, yes, economic decoupling, but also their role in our culture. If we don’t, if we ignore that, we’re not going to be able to win the fight together.”

But Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who uses TikTok in his campaign, said Chinese companies weren’t the only ones giving user data to the Chinese Communist Party.

“We have to ban any US company actually transferring US data to the Chinese,” he said. “So this is the problem when you have Republicans that temporarily go the way the winds blow and now it’s popular to talk tough on China.”

The exchange at the debate in Miami also got personal when Ramaswamy attacked Nikki Haley, a former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor.

“In the last debate she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So you might want to take care of your family first,” Ramaswamy said.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley shot back. The audience booed.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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