Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul rejected Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s request for unanimous consent to pass a bill banning TikTok on Wednesday.
Hawley’s bill, the No TikTok On United States Devices Act, would require the president to ban TikTok and its parent company ByteDance from conducting business transactions within the country. Any individual violating the law would face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. President Joe Biden signed Hawley’s bill banning TikTok from government devices in Dec. 2022.
Paul argued that Hawley’s bill violates Americans’ free speech rights. (RELATED: REPORT: TikTok Hires Biden-Connected Consulting Firm As US Ban Looms)
“There are two main reasons why we might not want to do this. One would be the First Amendment to the Constitution,” he said in a floor speech. “Speech is protected, whether you like it or not. The second reason would be is the Constitution actually prohibits bills of attainder. You’re not allowed to have a specific bill against a person or a company.”
“I think we should beware of those who peddle fear. I think we should beware of those who peddle fear to coax Americans to relinquish our liberties, to regulate and limit our First Amendment rights. Every accusation of data gathering that’s been attributed to TikTok could also be attributed to domestic big tech companies. In fact, one of the bills they are looking at doing is broad enough that the president will be given the power to designate any country he sees fit to be an adversary and whatever company underneath that definition. It would basically be a limitless authority for the president to ban speech,” Paul continued.
Paul referenced the RESTRICT Act, a bill proposed by Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune. The legislation, which is endorsed by the White House, would allow the Secretary of Commerce to create a process to review and ban technologies that are controlled by “foreign adversaries.” The RESTRICT Act has drawn criticism from some Democratic members, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, as well as Fox News host and Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson.
At least 27 states have banned TikTok from official devices, in addition to the federal ban. Both the House and the Senate have banned TikTok from official devices.