Republicans demand Biden ‘blow up TikTok’ over privacy concerns after shooting down Chinese spy balloon

Republicans demand Biden 'blow up TikTok' over privacy concerns after shooting down Chinese spy balloon

Republicans are demanding that the Biden administration act against Beijing-based video sharing app TikTok after the military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that drifted across US airspace for several days.

“Now blow up TikTok​,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) posted Saturday on Twitter, just hours after two US jet fighters destroyed the balloon in waters off South Carolina.

The balloon was first detected by the US military on Jan. 28 near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. 

But the Biden administration kept it a secret until reports surfaced last Wednesday that people in Montana had noticed a large orb floating high across the sky. 

Over the next few days, the balloon, sailing at an elevation of about 60,000 feet, continued to make its way across the Midwest — including over military facilities that housed nuclear missile silos and defense systems — before heading over the Atlantic Ocean where it met its end on Saturday.

Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.) said the balloon was another method for China to spy on the US. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz.
“Now blow up TikTok​,” Rep. Matt Gaetz responded after the spy balloon was shot down.
Pat Benic/UPI/Shutterstock

“The CCP continues to expand its surveillance operations beyond its borders. First, it was TikTok and Huawei. Now, it’s floating balloons to spy on Americans in full view​,” Flood said on Saturday, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

“​The Biden Administration is projecting weakness by dragging its feet to stop their plans. America is at a crossroads and it’s time to draw a line in the sand: We will not allow the CCP to surveil, spy on, or harvest data from Americans,​” ​he added.​

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton ​on Sunday said China has been “waging a cold war against the United States for decades” and the balloon is a striking reminder of Beijing’s evil intentions.

“I think this spy balloon that so vividly went across America is a very high-profile reminder to Americans about what the Chinese communists have been up to,” Cotton, of Arkansas, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Jor Biden.
The Biden administration kept the balloon secret until it was spotted over Montana Wednesday.

“I got to tell you viewers, if they’re worried about a spy balloon flying across middle of America, let me tell them about the TikTok app that they may have on their phone and what it means for their security and their privacy and that of their children, as well,” he said.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also picked up on the link between the balloon and the widely popular app. 

“​A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let’s shut them all down​,” he said on Friday

Calls for Congress to more deeply scrutinize TikTok, which is owned by Chinese-based ByteDance, have risen in intensity over the past several months and have come from both Republicans and Democrats. 

Rep. Mike Flood.
“First, it was TikTok and Huawei. Now, it’s floating balloons,” Rep. Mike Flood pointed out.
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senator Mitt Romney.
Senator Mitt Romney pointed out the link between the balloon and TikTok.
Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

The lawmakers fear that the company is mining the private data of US users of TikTok and supplying that information to the Chinese Communist Party. 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), introduced a bill last week to ban TikTok in the US, saying it provides a “backdoor” for China to access information.

“The big problem with TikTok is that it is a backdoor for the Chinese Communist Party into the personal data and the personal lives of every American who uses it, that includes especially our kids,” Hawley told The Hill. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has invited TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to testify before her panel on March 23 about the company’s “consumer privacy and data security practices.”

Shou Zi Chew.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has been invited to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23 about the company’s “consumer privacy and data security practices.”
Bloomberg via Getty Images

China reacted with outrage to the downing of the balloon, contending it was a “civilian airship” that had blown off course.

“In these circumstances, for the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention,” ​a statement from the Chinese government said.

“China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further.” 

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