Sen. Josh Hawley requests TikTok shut down over Gaza 'propaganda'
Hawley writes in his letter that the war is a “crucial test case” for the app's influence as a media organization and source of news as he expressed concern about what he referred to as “the ubiquity of anti-Israel content.”
Republican Montana Sen. Josh Hawley requested the Biden administration to ban TikTok because of its content about the war on Gaza, which he claims favors pro-Palestinian voices.
The letter was sent to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) with the authority to block foreign involvement in corporations and markets on certain national security grounds.
In it, Hawley wrote that the war is a “crucial test case” for the app's influence as a media organization and source of news as he expressed concern about what he referred to as “the ubiquity of anti-Israel content.”
“While data security issues are paramount, less often discussed is TikTok’s power to radically distort the world-picture that America’s young people encounter,” he added.
Hawley’s letter referred to a viral thread on X by venture capitalist Jeff Morris Jr., that claimed TikTok was making American youth more sympathetic to Palestinians than older Americans would be.
Hawley continued that CFIUS should forbid the use of not only TikTok but any app controlled by its parent company, ByteDance - to include CapCut, a popular video-editing app.
“This simply heightens the stakes of the TikTok question: the longer this app is allowed to operate in the U.S., the longer its Chinese Communist Party overseers will apparently be able to propagandize Americans. That is unacceptable,” Hawley continued.
According to an NBC News' review of hashtags related to the war, the perceived performance of pro-Palestinian content on TikTok relies on how you determine the app's data.
Hawley's office relayed that the representative sponsored legislation to ban TikTok in light of its collection of personal data, and that he intends to expedite a vote on the legislation on the Senate floor in the next few days.
The Under Senate states that such a vote would require unanimous consent from all senators and it hasn't been so pretty for Hawley as his last request failed in March.
In response, TikTok previously declared the allegations of bias are baseless.
In an emailed statement last week, it said, “Our Community Guidelines apply equally to all content on TikTok and we strongly reject any of the baseless claims to the contrary. We’re committed to consistently enforcing our policies to protect our community”.
A potential security agreement with TikTok to address data privacy concerns is being negotiated with the Biden Administration, as past attempts to ban it have been blocked for restricting people’s freedom of expression, and some legal scholars have said any future effort could raise First Amendment issues.