Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) on Tuesday defended TikTok as an “incredible organizing tactic,” throwing her support behind the platform amid a bipartisan effort by lawmakers to crack down on the popular video sharing app because of national security and data privacy concerns.
“We can think about privacy and security and make sure that we’re doing everything to ensure that, but also, banning TikTok is not, you know, the answer right now,” Lee told The Hill when asked about her stance on banning the app.
“It is an incredible organizing tactic too, so we want to make sure that we’re protecting it — keeping it safe — but protecting it,” she added.
Lee — a freshman lawmaker who is part of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — joins a small but growing group of Democratic lawmakers opposed to banning TikTok, which includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Robert Garcia (D-Calif.).
Lee noted the popularity of TikTok among young people. A 2022 Pew Research survey found that 67 percent of teens use the video sharing app. She also underscored the role the platform has played in connecting politicians to the American people.
“This is an app that has connected people, especially across the younger generations,” Lee said. “I know for certain that it has been able to allow us to, you know, reach folks where they are, particularly as, you know, candidates, as politicians, obviously not just TikTok but so many of these social media apps.”
“So I think it’s really funny, right, that we see, you know, the attempts to ban it now when we recognize the power that it holds for those of different generations to finally be able to connect and to organize and to mobilizing,” she added.
A growing number of lawmakers in recent weeks have expressed skepticism about TikTok, which is owned by China-based company ByteDance. Members from both parties have raised concerns about national security, data privacy, the spread of misinformation and safety for minors who utilize the app. Those worries were highlighted during a blockbuster hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew last week.
Lawmakers in both parties and chambers have introduced legislation to place a check on TikTok. A bill sponsored by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) would give the president the ability to ban TikTok, while a proposal from Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) would give the Commerce Department the ability to review, prevent and mitigate risks presented by technology linked to foreign adversaries, such as China.
The White House has backed the legislation sponsored by Warner and Thune.
It remains unclear, however, if any of the proposals will receive a vote in the House. House Republicans did advance a third TikTok-bill — titled the Deterring America’s Technology Adversaries Act (DATA Act) — in March, but it has not been brought before the full chamber.
The measure, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), calls for amending an existing exemption under the Berman Amendments — which restrict the president from regulating informational materials to encourage the exchange of ideas across country — so it does not pertain to “sensitive personal data.”