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Donald Trump Reverses Himself, Questions Ban On TikTok

WASHINGTON ― Former President Donald Trump raised concerns over efforts to ban the social media app TikTok this week, appearing to walk back the position he held in 2020, when he threatened to ban the app himself.

“If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business,” the presumptive 2024 GOP presidential nominee wrote on his social media platform on Thursday, referring to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Trump said he didn’t want Facebook to “d[o] better,” calling the company “a true Enemy of the People.”

The Republican-controlled House is set to vote on a bill next week that would ban the video platform, now used by over 100 million Americans, if its Chinese parent company ByteDance fails to divest its ownership within six months or so.

The legislation was approved by a rare 50-0 vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, despite a last-minute lobbying effort by TikTok that urged users to call lawmakers’ offices in protest.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle worry TikTok poses a threat to U.S. national security because of its ties to Beijing. They also have concerns with its data privacy given its popularity with young users, many of whom are minors.

“If you value your personal freedom and privacy online, if you care about America’s national security at home, and, yes, even if you want TikTok to stick around in the United States — this bill offers the only real step towards each of these goals,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the chair of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and one of the authors of the legislation, said this week.

It’s not clear why Trump appeared to reconsider his position on banning TikTok. Some commentators noted he recently hosted GOP megadonor Jeff Yass, who is a billionaire investor in ByteDance, at his Mar-a-Lago club and sought his support in the presidential race.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), an outspoken China critic and supporter of Trump, said he disagreed with the former president’s comments about TikTok.

“I’m not a fan of Facebook, but TikTok is a qualitatively different deal. It’s a backdoor for the Communist Chinese party,” Hawley said Friday.

Meanwhile, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), another populist Trump ally in the Senate, said Congress should also focus on regulating tech media companies broadly “as opposed to carving out just one of them.”

“I think we ought to do something about TikTok, but I think we also ought to do something about Google,” Vance added.

President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday that he would sign the legislation if it reaches his desk, but it first must clear both chambers of Congress. In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said similar legislation “should be looked at,” though he didn’t offer a commitment to bring it to the floor during an ABC News interview last month.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also criticized a potential ban on TikTok, citing concerns with free speech.

“If Congress bans TikTok, they will be acting just like the Chinese communists who have also banned TikTok,” Paul wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Why not just defend the first amendment?”

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