Dem Caucus chair says TikTok ban is still on the table

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.)
Greg Nash
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Thursday, January 5, 2023 where they discussed the Speaker vote.

As a growing number of liberal Democrats come out in opposition to a TikTok ban, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus said Tuesday that such a blockade remains a possibility.

“I don’t think anybody’s closing any door at this point,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) told reporters in the Capitol.

The comments arrive as lawmakers in both parties are intensifying their scrutiny of the enormously popular video-sharing app, citing its ties to China’s autocratic government.

The Energy and Commerce Committee staged a fiery hearing on the topic last week, when TikTok’s CEO was hammered by Republicans and Democrats alike. And members of both parties are lining up behind efforts to rein in the company, citing concerns about national security, individual privacy and the mental health of users. Some proposals would ban the company from the U.S. outright.

After last week’s hearing, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the Energy and Commerce panel, said the scrutiny is necessary because of “the threat that TikTok poses to our youth.”

“I think it was the most bipartisan hearing I’ve ever been a part of,” she said.

Amid that barrage, however, a small but growing group of progressives has emerged to defend the company — and the right of Americans to access its services.

In recent days, prominent members of the liberal “squad” — including Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — have all voiced their staunch opposition to a TikTok ban, noting that American-owned social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all been dogged by concerns about privacy, security and mental health.

“We should create actual standards and regulations around data harvesting and privacy violations across social media companies — like many countries around the world have already done — not ban particular platforms we don’t like,” Omar said Tuesday in a statement.

Aguilar acknowledged the internal disagreements about TikTok’s fate, but attributed them to natural cultural differences between older lawmakers, like him, who grew up before the internet, and younger members, for whom social media is second nature.

“This has less to do with ideology and more to do with generation,” he said.

“That’s … the environment that they were raised in, and part of the reason why they came to Congress is to engage and to have these discussions. I don’t begrudge that at all; I think that’s healthy,” he continued.

“We need to also overlay that, when you get here, our ability to govern, our desire to govern, with an eye toward national security, with an eye toward competitiveness, with an eye toward protecting the personal privacy rights of individuals across this country.”

Asked pointedly if a TikTok ban is still on the table, Aguilar suggested it is. “We look forward to the steps ahead,” he said, “but I don’t think any door is closed.”

Tags Cathy McMorris Rodgers Cathy McMorris Rodgers Ilhan Omar Pete Aguilar Pete Aguilar TikTok

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