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ICYMI: Rubio Joins South Florida’s 1st News

Mar 29, 2023 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined South Florida’s 1st News with Andrew Colton to discuss TikTok and the threat this Chinese state-owned app poses to our national security interests. See below for highlights and listen to the full interview here.

On the problem with TikTok:

“All of social media is addicting and designed to be that way. The reason why they collect all this data on you, in addition to it being valuable for their advertisers, is they can then feed it into their algorithm that predicts what you’re going to like, what you’re going to watch, more than you know. The algorithm knows you better than you do. They all do that. 

“The difference is, first of all, TikTok is better. Their algorithm, their preference engine, is better than anybody else’s. That’s number one. They also control and collect more data. [But] the fundamental problem is this: the algorithm is controlled 100 percent from China, from ByteDance, which is a Chinese company. And there’s no such thing as a private Chinese company. 

“Under Chinese law, ByteDance has to do whatever the Chinese government tells them. So if tomorrow or two years from now, or whenever the Chinese government decides, ‘We’re going to do something hostile towards the United States, and what we need to do is make sure that their people are against America doing anything about it’… Let’s say Taiwan: ‘We’re going to invade Taiwan, and we need to keep America from invading, and the best way to do that is to convince enough Americans that we shouldn’t.’ And then you spend a couple of years just feeding people messages, all the things that make TikTok addictive. The videos on the dance craze, all the other stuff, you weaponize that and the data to begin to influence Americans. And all of a sudden we find ourselves paralyzed as a country. 

“We’re already seeing it now. Right now, you see these people out there clamoring against it: ‘Don’t take away my TikTok. I’d much rather watch moody dance videos than care about, what are the vulnerabilities of it.’ Imagine that on steroids down the road. So they all have that power. But the difference is the social media company that we’re talking about here is, TikTok is 100 percent beholden to the Communist Party of China. 

“If it was beholden to the government of Belgium or the Netherlands, we’d be worried about it, but we should be freaked [out] about the fact that the Chinese can weaponize this thing against us. And by the way, all these businesses out there that depend on TikTok for marketing, you’re going to be a Chinese hostage. Go down the road, and they’ll do to you what they’ve done to corporations in America for years. And that is: ‘All right, if America wants to get tough on us, we’ll just cut you off, and that’ll be the end of your business. So you better go talk to your senator and your congressman and tell them not to get tough on China.’ That’s already kind of happening. But that’s going to happen exponentially to millions of small businesses down the road.”

On the only way to secure America from TikTok:

“Selling TikTok is useless, because it doesn’t matter who owns the company, it’s who owns the algorithm. And you can’t buy the algorithm. It’s owned by ByteDance. And Chinese law prohibits them from exporting it. It doesn’t matter where you store the data. You can store the data in my backyard if you want. At the end of the day, you have to give the engineers in China access to the data for the algorithm to work, or Tiktok doesn’t work. 

“So my view of it is, the only opportunity we have is to pass my bill, which is the only bicameral, bipartisan bill, meaning it has House and Senate sponsors and has Republicans and Democrats supporting it, that would say that any social media company that is owned by someone that has to follow Chinese national security law cannot make money in the United States. TikTok cannot generate revenue in the United States.

“And look, there’s a legitimate government concern here. Taking something away from 150 million Americans is not my first choice, so I think we owe people an explanation. But I just don’t see any alternative other than banning it.”

On the school shooting in Nashville:

“To begin with, I think the fundamental question we need to be asking ourselves is, why do we live in a country where people want to kill so many people in these mass shootings? Beyond what [weapons] they’re using, shouldn’t we ask why? Why are people doing this? 

“And second, I would say laws are only as good as your willingness to follow them. We have laws, for example, that should have prohibited this woman… I guess she identified as a man, but she was a woman. And there’s laws that should have prohibited her from buying [weapons]. She was under mental health care, and the law wasn’t followed. It just wasn’t implemented. The background checks should have prohibited this. Somebody should have been able to intervene.

“All these cases have a similar trajectory to them. These people show signs well before they act. People know they’re dangerous. Her parents said they didn’t think she should own guns. And then she went to the school after warning multiple people that there was a problem here, and nothing happened about it. 

“So whether it’s the guns she bought or some other guns she could have gotten, or a bomb or grenades or whatever, the truth of the matter is that dangerous people should not have access to this, and that doesn’t work if the laws aren’t being followed and implemented.”

On FAU and UM in the March Madness semifinals:

“I’m very proud to see two of the four teams [in the semifinals] are from Florida…. It’s just a great story. So I think we’ve got a 50 percent chance of Florida winning the national championship. And that’s a good thing.”