FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., broke from his Senate GOP colleagues on Tuesday over their opposition to TikTok, arguing that banning the popular social media app "goes against the First Amendment."
"I think it's a really bad idea. And people need to ask themselves, ‘Why does the Chinese government ban TikTok, and do we want to emulate the Chinese government?’ So, I think it's a mistake," Paul told Fox News Digital after weekly Senate lunches. "If you ban a social media platform, you know, I don't know if you get any clearer that that goes against the First Amendment."
There are currently two bipartisan Senate bills aimed at banning TikTok, a video app that exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic but has raised alarms over its connection to the Chinese Communist Party.
While congressional Democrats are divided on whether TikTok should be handled as a national security threat, Republicans have nearly all gotten on board with curbing it – save for at least one notable exception.
Asked why he’s opposed to a bill introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D., that would give the president a pathway to banning TikTok, Paul replied, "I'm for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says that companies that operate in the United States, we shouldn't limit their speech or people who try to broadcast speech on those platforms."
He shared similar sentiments about an earlier bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would outright ban the app from operating in the U.S.: "Any bills that name a particular organization have a constitutional problem … not allowed to write a specific law against a person or a company. The First Amendment also requires the government to stay out of regulating speech or preventing speech."
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before a House of Representatives panel last week. He repeatedly denied that the app’s parent company, ByteDance, part of which is owned by China’s authoritarian government, allows Beijing to spy on American users’ data.
Paul pointed out that precedent shows that banning the social media app may not work out.
"The courts have already struck that down when the Trump administration tried to ban TikTok," Paul said. "It was struck down."