WACKER: On TikTok Bill, Lawmakers Vote ‘Yes’ Or ‘Yass’


Mike Wacker Contributor
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Does the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have a right to control the content that 170 million Americans see (or do not see) on TikTok? According to the House of Representatives, the answer is a resounding no. In a 352-65 vote, they passed a bill that would force the CCP to divest TikTok; if the CCP refused to divest TikTok, TikTok would be banned.

On this issue, the key question is whether you can trust the CCP. In communist China, there is no private sector. While there are technically “private companies” in China — in the same sense that there are technically “democratic elections” in Russia — under Chinese law, these companies must obey the dictates of the CCP. Chinese businessmen who criticize the CCP, such as tech icon Jack Ma, have a curious habit of “disappearing.”

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is a Chinese company; the CCP effectively controls TikTok.

Thus, it’s hardly surprising when you see stories about TikTok spying on journalists, or when a TikTok employee says, “Everything is seen in China.” TikTok tried to position Project Texas as the answer to these concerns, but you can only trust Project Texas if you trust the CCP. A report on the failures of Project Texas from The Wall Street Journal confirmed that, in fact, you cannot trust the CCP.

Some have raised First Amendment concerns, but those also miss the mark. While the CCP has a First Amendment right to create a TikTok account, it does not have a First Amendment right to control the content that over 170 million American see on TikTok.

According to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Services, Congress has a history of passing laws that restrict foreign ownership of mass communications media, such as radio or broadcast. It suffices to say that TikTok is also a mass communications media.

Moreover, the TikTok bill only targets social media apps that are controlled by foreign adversaries like China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea. It could not be used against Twitter, since that app is American-owned.

Nonetheless, there are some American “interests” in opposing the TikTok bill: Republican megadonor Jeff Yass has a $33 billion stake in TikTok. According to the New York Post, Yass “bullied” lawmakers, threatening to pull funding for them if they supported the TikTok bill.

Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is one of most vocal critics of the TikTok bill, but it should also be noted that Yass donated $6 million to Paul’s PAC in 2023 alone. Former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy flip-flopped on TikTok days after calling it “digital fentanyl.” His PAC has received $4.8 million from Jeff Yass.

Yass also recently mended fences with Donald Trump. Some speculate that this may have played a role in Trump’s apparent about-face on TikTok, which happened days after Trump met with Yass; Trump tried to ban TikTok when he was president. However, it should be noted that Trump did not send anyone to Washington to lobby against the TikTok bill. So maybe he just wants to be seen opposing the legislation, not to actually kill it.

Yass is also vice chairman of the Cato Institute, and his Susquehanna Foundation donated $3 million to Cato in 2022, according to their most recent 990 form. One Cato scholar recently made the astonishing claim that there is “no hard evidence that Chinese authorities have ever surveilled American data.” The journalists TikTok spied on would beg to differ.

When a staffer for Sen. Paul, Ximena Barreto, promoted this false claim from Cato, she stealth-edited and then deleted her tweet after I called her out for promoting obvious misinformation about national security threats. To make matters worse, Barreto is an external affairs director for the homeland security committee.

And Yass is not the only billionaire with ties to China. Elon Musk also vocally opposed the TikTok bill, but he has his own set of entanglements in China via Tesla. When Bari Weiss pressed him about those entanglements, Musk became annoyed and eventually said that there are “two sides” to China’s genocide of the Uyghurs.

If Musk — who touts himself as the champion of free speech — cannot speak freely about the Uyghur genocide for fear of what the Communist Chinese Party might do to Tesla, then perhaps its not a good idea to let the CCP control the content that over 170 million Americans see on TikTok.

Mike Wacker is a software engineer and technologist who has previously served as tech fellow in Congress. Follow him on X.com at @m_wacker.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.