Presidential hopeful Nikki Haley says China-owned TikTok should be banned in the United States and teenagers shouldn’t be kept in the dark as to why.
GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley believes honesty is the best policy when explaining the need for a TikTok ban to teenagers.
In a Nov. 20 interview with “Fox News,” the former South Carolina governor said she thinks a ban on TikTok is still sorely needed, but when the time comes, teenagers will require a truthful explanation as to why it’s important.
The social media app has proven especially popular with younger generations. According to estimates, the United States has the largest TikTok audience at over 135 million, and nearly half of those users are under 30.
“I think what we need to do is we need to be honest with them, you know, you don’t tell them this is what we’re going to do and not explain why,” Ms. Haley said.
“The reason we want to ban TikTok, and yes, I think we need to ban it, is because it’s an app that actually goes and has access to your contacts, to your financial information, to your camera, to your recorder, to everything. It’s infiltration; we know that,” she said.
TikTok, owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, has already been banned from government devices over national security concerns in more than a few countries. The United States, Canada, the United Kingsdom, Australia, and the European Union have all outlawed public officials from having the app on their work phones.
National security and intelligence leaders have been sounding the alarm over TikTok for quite a while now as well. CIA Director William Burns and FBI Director Christopher Wray have both warned that the app is a threat to national security.
“They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose, or to control software on millions of devices which gives it opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices,” Mr. Wray warned in November last year.
Concerns Over TikTok’s Influence on Younger Generations
Ms. Haley reiterated concerns that content allowed on or promoted by the China-owned app holds key sway over influencing young people and their views. She cited a recent incident where a decades-old letter from Osama bin Laden went viral online and received praise from users over its anti-America stance. The deceased former al-Qaeda leader is, of course, infamous as a key figure in the Sept. 11 attacks, which claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 American civilians.
Ms. Haley said the letter was written to the United States only a week after the 9/11 attacks in an attempt to justify “why they did what they did.” She believes it was posted online in an attempt to “influence young voters.”
“I think young voters, when you tell them the truth, they will understand,” she said.
“There is a reason India banned TikTok; there is a reason Nepal just this past week banned TikTok, because they saw the social disruption that was happening by foreign actors.”
Ultimately, Ms. Haley says she wants social media companies operating in America to be a force for freedom of speech, protected under the First Amendment, without the “foreign intrusion” that she claims is already happening and causing “distractions, divisions, and chaos in America.”
Ms. Haley stressed that’s the part “we are trying to stop”—not prevent young people from communicating and expressing their views online.
TikTok has been dogged by reports that it could become answerable to the edicts of the Chinese Communist Party, which controls China and any China-based businesses under its single-party iron-fisted rule, since its worldwide release in August 2018.
A recent Nov. 15 report published by Pew Research revealed that many TikTok users now get their news from the China-owned video-sharing app, with almost a third of adults between 18 and 29 regularly using the platform for news.
A recent class-action lawsuit has also alleged that TikTok violates state laws against wiretapping because the app records every keystroke, click, swipe, and text communication, including information written but not sent by the user, when users enter other websites through the app.
Important for Everyone to Understand ‘Hard Truths’ About TikTok
TikTok is still very popular though, with data from online data gathering platform Statista showing that as of 2023, the app is closing in on a billion users worldwide, with projections for growth in 2024 and 2025.
Ms. Haley says she thinks telling people the “hard truths” about the app is important. She also emphasized that everyone needs to know about the “dangers of TikTok,” including foreign bots that she says can spread misinformation and divide a country.
“This is a truth that needs to be told to the American people, no matter what age they are. I think the younger generation is smart; I think they will understand this when we explain it to them,” Ms. Haley said.
“And yes, we’re on social media too. We put videos out there, we’re doing all those things, but we’re doing [it] on platforms that we know that we can trust. And TikTok’s one we don’t trust,” she added.
Ms. Haley isn’t the only public official calling for a ban on TikTok. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been pushing for a ban of the app with his “No TikTok on United States Devices Act.” The bill would also ban commercial activity with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said in the wake of the Bin Laden letter incident that it was “further evidence that we need to ban TikTok.”
The Epoch Times contacted TikTok for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.