Cruz says controversial TikTok bill ‘will benefit’ the app’s users

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a Wednesday interview that users would benefit from the controversial bill to force TikTok’s Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance, to sell the popular app or face a ban in the United States.

Following a classified intelligence briefing for senators on TikTok, Cruz made the case that blocking the Chinese Communist Party from exerting influence over the app’s content would be in users’ best interest and would improve the experience on the app.

“For the people who use TikTok and enjoy it: This is not about getting rid of that,” Cruz said in an interview on Fox News with Brett Baier. “What it is about is forcing China to divest, getting TikTok out of control of the Chinese Communist Party, getting it in the hands of an American company, getting it in the hands of anyone other than China or an enemy of America.”

“I think it is very important,” Cruz continued. “And will benefit the users of TikTok and everyone else, too.”

Cruz described his concerns about China’s connection to the app as two-fold: He is concerned about “the threat it poses of espionage and surveillance of the Chinese Communist Party monitoring” the 170 million Americans who use TikTok.

“They have the ability to monitor what they’re saying, what they’re doing on their phones, where they are. I think it’s a real privacy risk to Americans, who may not realize that the Chinese government has that ability,” Cruz said.

Secondly, Cruz said, he’s concerned about the propaganda push – both for China’s own benefit, for example, in “suppressing information about Tiananmen Square, about Hong Kong, about Tibet” – and in ways that are damaging to children.

“They’re pushing all sorts of harmful garbage to our kids. Self-harm, cutting,” Cruz said, adding, “Here, they’re pushing our kids to chew tide pods.”

Cruz’s remarks echo the sentiment of many of his fellow senators, who are trying to reshape the narrative around the bipartisan House-passed TikTok bill – which critics have branded as a “ban,” but which lawmakers point out still gives ByteDance 165 days to divest TikTok and allow the app to continue running in the U.S.  

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said on Wednesday that the “top priority” for him and Vice Chair Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is to make clear to the public, especially the roughly 170 million TikTok users in the U.S., that the bill isn’t about taking away the “creativity” or ability to make money from using the platform. 

“It’s about the ability to make sure this creativity that’s happening on this platform can’t be manipulated. To make sure this creativity that’s happening on this platform can’t be manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party,” Warner said.  

Their effort to change the narrative comes after the company, ahead of the House vote, led a campaign on its app, urging users to call their lawmakers to ask them to block the bill, calling it a “TikTok shutdown.” 

The Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act still moved swiftly through the House. It advanced out of the House committee in a unanimous vote earlier this month, just days after it was first introduced, and less than a week later it passed in a 352-65 vote on the floor. 

Cruz said he expects the Commerce Committee, at some point, to consider the bill in a markup and hopefully have an open amendment process.

“I’m not convinced the language the House passed is exactly what it will be in law, but I’m glad the House is acting to address this very serious threat,” he said.

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