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ICYMI: Rubio Joins Standpoint Podcast with Gabe Groisman Podcast

Mar 14, 2024 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Standpoint with Gabe Groisman Podcast to discuss why TikTok is a threat to our national security interests, Rubio’s recent trip to Argentina and Paraguay, the Israel-Hamas war, and more. See below for highlights and watch the full interview on YouTube and Rumble.

On why TikTok is a threat:

“There is a national security implication here for two reasons. The first is highly technical, and I’m going to try to explain that in a moment. The other is that TikTok is very popular. People like it. That makes it a threat in some ways. Let me explain what I mean.

“Tiktok is a social media app. It’s short-form videos, and they’re very popular. But the thing that makes them very popular is that the app reads your mind. The more you use it, the more it knows the kinds of things you like and like to watch and the kinds of things you’re not that interested in. So, the more you use it, the more it feeds you things you like, and suddenly, it starts feeding you things you didn’t know you liked or even knew existed. But it knew you would like it once you saw it. 

“That’s all based on an algorithm. This is artificial intelligence. It’s the ability of machines to learn from human behavior to predict human behavior, to, in essence, predict what it is you’re going to like. Now, that algorithm is not owned by TikTok. It’s owned by their parent company. The name of the parent company is ByteDance, and ByteDance is a Chinese company. It’s headquartered in China, and under the laws of China, ByteDance owns TikTok, but more importantly, it owns the thing that makes TikTok special. 

“Under Chinese law, ByteDance has to do whatever the government tells them to do. If, as they have done now in Taiwan and in some other countries, the Chinese Communist Party goes to ByteDance and says, ‘We want you to use this algorithm and everything you’ve learned about the people in that country to change their values, change their opinions, change how they’re going to vote, or influence what they’re going to see, what kind of messages are going to be out there,’ ByteDance has no choice, but to do it. 

“Now, the way they’ll defend it is by saying, ‘TikTok is in America, and the data of Americans is stored in America.’ But the value of the data is not the data. The value of the data is that who you are, where you live, what you watch, what you like, what you buy, where you’ve been, all those things: that data is what feeds that algorithm. That’s what that algorithm is built on. There’s no way that the engineers at ByteDance in China can have an algorithm that works unless they have access to the data, no matter where you store it. You can store it like Oracle does, in Texas. The engineers at ByteDance in China have to have access to it, because the algorithm doesn’t work without it. 

“What this law would do is say, ‘TikTok can continue to operate, but it has to divest and has to separate from ByteDance.’ In essence, ByteDance has to sell it. The Chinese government won’t allow it. If ByteDance were allowed to sell today, they’d probably get $190 billion. Their valuation is very high. They probably would sell. It’s not a bad deal at this point. I think the problem is that the Chinese government will not allow it to be sold, and they will not allow the algorithm to be sold. 

“People ask, ‘How does ByteDance owning TikTok become a problem?’ Well, it’s not a problem immediately. But imagine, for example, that the United States and China are headed for a conflict somewhere in the world. Suddenly, ByteDance’s algorithm is adjusted so that the family members of people who serve in the military start to see videos about how horrible it’s going to be for Americans, how they’re going to die, why it’s so stupid for America to get involved. All of a sudden, we’re going to have people pressuring political leaders, not to keep TikTok alive like you’re seeing now, but to not go to war with China. ‘I don’t want my son or daughter to die. It’s not worth fighting.’ Now, people have a right to express that view. But we have a real concern about American public opinion being manipulated by a foreign power. 

“Now, there is one more point I would make. One of the arguments you’re going to hear people make is, ‘How is that any different from what Facebook and Meta does?’ Now, it’s true that they all have algorithms. They all build it on data. I’m not saying that that shouldn’t also be looked at. But there’s a big difference between something that’s controlled by a company whose CEO we may not like, or who has a history of doing things that we don’t like, and something that’s controlled by a foreign government that wants, not just be an alternative to America in the world, but to replace America. 

“Communist China wants to become the most powerful nation on earth. They want to weaken America in the process. There’s a big difference between something like this owned by that kind of government and an American corporation. If they want to pass bills tomorrow that may allow us to sue social media companies for the decisions they make, like censorship, I’m for that too. We should do that. But I don’t think the answer is to allow the Chinese to continue to operate in this way. 

“I was the first member of Congress, back in 2019, that called attention to this problem. I started building up steam to work with the Trump administration in 2020. They tried to ban TikTok. They didn’t. The court said they didn’t have the authority. That’s why Congress passed a law.”

On the argument that there is no evidence TikTok has been weaponized:

“You know, North Korea has nuclear weapons, and we’re very concerned about them. They’ve never launched them against anyone. There’s no evidence that North Korea has ever used nuclear weapons, or that the Russians or the Chinese have, for that matter. So, why are we concerned about their nuclear weapons? They’ve never been used. 

“The answer is that they could be used, and that we know they plan to use them in a time of conflict. That’s why we’re concerned about, not just nuclear weapons, but any other military capabilities that they add. And that’s the same here. 

“TikTok is a very powerful weapon for psychological warfare, for cognitive warfare, for influencing elections in American politics. It’s a very difficult thing to prove until after the fact that they’ve used it. Because, unlike a weapon, you don’t see some detonation. These algorithms are very complicated, and it’s difficult to know they’re being used until they’ve had their impact, and it’s too late. 

“But the fact is that Communist China has done it. They have done it in Taiwan. There’s evidence all over the world that the algorithms on TikTok censor speech on things like Uyghur Muslims and Xinjiang and Hong Kong and Tibet and the Dalai Lama and Tiananmen Square.

“The capability exists, and the intent exists, to wage psychological warfare on the United States. The only thing missing is the opportunity or the conflict in which they would do it. It’s the same with cyber. We know that the Chinese have penetrated everything from water systems to the electrical grid of this country to the banking system. They haven’t shut out the power grid of the United States, but they would in a time of conflict. 

“So, in national security, we are always worried about potential weapons and tools available to an adversary that could potentially be used in the time of conflict. TikTok is one of them.”

On whether the Senate will pass legislation to divest TikTok from ByteDance:

“I think there’s some people that are, and I understand, uncomfortable with the idea that we’re going to ban something that over 100 million Americans have on their phones. They’re not in favor of the government doing that. There are some people that come at it from a very pure libertarian standpoint of, ‘The government shouldn’t be involved in this.’ 

“Then, frankly, there’s a lot of lobbying, and a lot of money going around. TikTok has spent millions of dollars. They’ve hired all kinds of lobbyists on both sides of the aisle. They’ve hired former staffers of key senators to lobby on this issue. It’s all hands on deck. They have spent more money on lobbying, probably, than any other company in Washington in the last six months or year. So, there’s a lot of that going on here, too. 

“Nothing in the Senate moves as fast as things in the House, but I’m glad we’re going to have this debate, and I’m glad we’re going to be able to educate people about it. We’ll see when the time comes. It’ll ultimately be up to Senator Schumer, who’s the majority leader now, to decide whether something comes to the floor or not.

“This bill had big support in the House. I think that should be something we take into consideration. But we’ll have to work on it. I recognize that for most people, they still haven’t heard all the arguments on both sides. It’s an important policy debate and one I’m glad we’re going to have, and I hope we can get a good outcome.”

On Senator Rubio’s meeting with Argentine President Javier Milei:

“It was a great meeting. I know his personality is eccentric in some people’s minds, but the guy’s a very serious guy one on one. He’s a real legit economist. He’s got real ideas about what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to unravel 60, 70 years of really bad public policy, basically leftist populism, that’s destroyed the Argentine economy, which, 100 years ago, was, I think, the eighth or ninth largest in the world. 

“Argentina’s problem is that they have America’s spending problem, but not America’s credit rating. So, they can’t get any more funding. It comes to a head here. President Milei has had two months of surpluses as a result of the decisions he’s been able to make as president. I think that’s beginning to change concepts, internationally, about investment in Argentina. 

“Look, the Chinese are trying to become a global power. They’re trying to play everywhere. They’re interested in three things. The first and foremost is the exploitation of raw material. If you have lithium, if you have rare earth minerals, if you have farmland, if you have oil or natural gas, if you have natural resources, they want to come into your country. Argentina has all of those things. 

“Argentina is a pretty significant source of lithium already. I think they have, potentially, even surpassed Chile as an exporter. They sell a lot to China now, as a result of deals that were done in the past. They opted to expand that lithium industry even further, but to do it in ways that the Chinese companies don’t know how to abuse, that would actually employ local people, as opposed to what the Chinese do, which is import workers. 

“My view of it is that when there is a country that elects a leader, and that leader says, ‘I want to get closer to America and less reliant on China,’ I think it is in our national interest to reciprocate. It’s important for those leaders to be able to go to their people and say, ‘These are the benefits of being closer to America: investment partnership, security cooperation, mutual respect.’ When someone says, ‘I want to be a friend of America,’ America should say, ‘We want to be your friend in return, and we want to do more things together.’ 

“That’s the opportunity we have in Argentina. As someone who believes in limited government and fiscal sanity, I obviously find a lot of appeal in President Milei. But that’s up for the people of Argentina to decide. What I think is in our national interest is that if we have a president that says, ‘I want Argentina to be allied to the United States and less dependent on China,’ we should embrace that and say, ‘How can we build on that? How can we make you successful in that endeavor, so that you can go to people and say, “If you’re a friend of America, it’s good for your country. It’s better to be friends with America and this to be friends with China, Russia, Iran”?’”

On why the Biden Administration sidelines potential allies in Latin America:

“The first reason is sheer negligence. We just don’t pay enough attention to the Western Hemisphere. I think that’s a broad problem that we face. The second problem that we have is that we empower lower-level people at the State Department, and sometimes in the embassies themselves, to act like bullies, to go into countries and say, ‘We don’t care if you want to be closer to the United States, we don’t like that you’re doing this or that.’ 

“In some cases, they’re socially conservative countries like Paraguay or Guatemala. Our embassy gets upset when those governments are not embracing Gay Pride Month or whatever. Those leaders say, ‘We’re a socially conservative country. That stuff doesn’t go over well here.’ So, even though they want to be closer to America geopolitically, we end up condemning them or sanctioning people or what have you. That’s become a factor. 

“In other cases, it’s things like, ‘Some army unit 40 years ago committed human rights abuses, so therefore, we’re not going to sell military weapons.’ There’s no one alive or even involved in the military today that has anything to do with those human rights abuses back in the day, but nonetheless, they still hold the current governments responsible. There’s some element of that as well.

“Whether it’s the Dominican Republic, whether it’s people accusing Bukele in El Salvador, who was just reelected resoundingly in an election that no one claims was fraudulent, of being a dictator: those are the two countries that come to mind that try to get closer to America, and instead, we sanction and try to punish them. It’s disturbing. 

“A lot of these embassies get away with this stuff, too. The foreign policy of the United States towards Israel, for example, is not set by the embassy. It’s set by the State Department. But in a lot of these countries that no one’s paying attention to, we basically delegate too much authority to these local-level employees, who end up bullying some of these leaders in ways that are contrary to our national interest. That’s something we need to address. 

“Policymakers like myself are trying to change things. Others are joining me and paying more attention. I was in Paraguay after my trip to Argentina. I think I was the first senator to visit Paraguay in 40 years. There had not been a U.S. senator visit for years. I get it: there’s a lot going on in the world, and Paraguay is a small country. But it just goes to show that there are still a lot of places we just don’t pay a lot of attention to.”

On the Biden Administration advocating a two-state solution in the Holy Land:

“The two-state solution that they’re talking about is not Palestine and Israel. It’s Michigan and Minnesota. Those are the two states that they’re trying to solve for the elections in November. 

“In a perfect world, in a world of perfect harmony, a two-state solution would be great. I think the Israelis tried on multiple occasions for there to be a land, a territory, a country that Palestinians could call their own, where they could coexist peacefully alongside the Jewish state of Israel. But there are complexities over what the land would be, what’s the status of Jerusalem, and all those things that make the deal complicated. And then, there’s reality. 

“The world has changed over 50 or 60 years, and that’s not unusual. There’s no country in the world whose borders have not changed and moved as a result of wars and conflicts and things like that. Texas used to belong to Mexico, and then Texas was its own republic, and then it became part of the United States. These things happen. I think that’s happened with Israel, particularly as a result of conflicts and wars where Israel had to create more and more buffer against neighbors who were attacking them. That’s what makes it complicated. 

“But let’s just say that a two-state solution is the ideal. Here would be my question: ‘Who would govern it? Who would be in charge of this Palestinian state?’ Right now, the only two organizations that claim to speak for the Palestinians are Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Both of them pay rewards to the families of terrorists who die in terrorist attacks that kill Israelis. The more Jews you kill, the more they reward you. They build statues and monuments. They don’t build statues and monuments for peacemaking. They build statues and monuments for terrorists. In their school system, when little children are four, five, six years of age, they are taught that Jews are subhuman and that killing Jews is glorious. 

“These are the people that are going to be the government? These are the people that are going to be in charge? What guarantees are there for Israel? Now, the guarantee is that any land you turn over, with the leadership that exists today in the Palestinian world, is going to become a launchpad for Iran and the groups they sponsor.”

On Iran’s role in current Middle-East conflicts:

“People think that the core issue in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian situation. It’s not. The core issue in the Middle East is that Iran wants to be a dominant regional power, and the two things standing in their way from achieving that are the presence of the United States and Israel. 

“They want to drive us out of the region, which is why they have all these proxies attacking us, so that Americans will say, ‘it’s not worth it. Let’s just get out of there.’ And then they want to destroy Israel. They can’t beat Israel in a frontal military conflict, but they can make Israel an unlivable place. They can use their proxies in Iraq and Syria to move into and topple Jordan. Then, once they have a presence in Jordan, they can attack Israel from the West Bank, from Gaza, from Syria, from Jordan, and just surround it, to make Israel an unlivable place and collapse it as a state. 

“That’s their goal, and that’s what’s driving all of this. Until that problem is solved, none of these other problems can be solved, because they are the ones that are driving this irritant. We have trouble accepting that reality. We think that the problem with Iran is just their nuclear ambition. It’s much broader than that. 

“Their desire to be a regional hegemonic power, and to do it, they’ve got to drive America out of there. Then, they have to make Israel an unlivable place, so that the state as we know it would collapse. At that point, they can move on to Bahrain, maybe they can never take Saudi Arabia, but they can go after all these other Gulf kingdoms that are much smaller in capability. They already have a presence in Yemen. 

“All of a sudden, Iran now becomes the most powerful country, and they have achieved their objective, which is to drive, ‘from the river to the sea,’ as they like to chant, every Jew out of their region. These idiots on the street don’t even know what it means, or they do know what it means, but pretend they don’t. But that’s the objective, and that’s the core problem.”

On the reasons for anti-Israel sentiment in the United States: 

“Our foreign policy leaders, particularly career bureaucrats at the State Department and others involved in think tanks, are some of the most gullible people. They don’t live in reality. They think that every country in the world is some Western European nation like Belgium. 

“There were very generous offers made, 20 years ago, for a Palestinian state. They were flat out rejected. They were rejected because they didn’t go far enough, because the current Palestinian leaders’ objective is not an entire state. Their objective is the entirety of Israel. Anything less than that is viewed as betrayal and is not rewarded. There’s no reward for being a peacemaker in Palestinian political circles these days. There’s just no one to negotiate with. But people are very gullible. 

“Then, you’ve got this whole anti-colonialism argument. The argument they’re basically applying to Israel, and I’m just paraphrasing what their argument would be, is that a bunch of European Jews, after the Second World War, colonized land that belonged to Arabs and drove them out of there.

“It’s illegitimate. It ignores 5,000 years of history and all kinds of archaeological and historical evidence of the fact that there’s been a continuous Jewish presence in that part of the world throughout that period of time. But unfortunately, it’s become ingrained in our higher education system, our popular culture, Hollywood, the media, and certainly in global political circles as well. I’s become deeply ingrained. 

“It’s one of those things where we’re not going to win a lot of popularity contests. What you have to do is just say, ‘I’m right, and I’m going to apply realism and strength to protect my position.’ I hope that global public opinion and elite public opinion will one day change. But our insurance against it actually becoming policy is to remain firm and to apply strength and realism to the situation we face right now in that part of the world.

“The state of Israel would not exist if Israel did not use it, was not able to defend itself, and was not able to threaten its adversaries with overwhelming military capability and the will to use that. It faces existential threats, and it needs to respond in kind. That’s the reality today. Maybe, one day, we’ll live in a world where that’s not the case. But today, right now, that’s the world we live in, and that’s the world we’ve lived in for quite a while.”

On the relevance of foreign issues to the United States: 

“Why are people coming to the border of the United States? Number one, because the Biden Administration put in place policies that encouraged them to come. Number two, because they’re leaving countries where there are problems. 

“They’re leaving socialism, Marxism, and narco-dictatorship in Venezuela. They’re leaving chaos in Haiti. They’re leaving Marxism and failed communism in Cuba. They’re leaving violence and everything that comes with what’s happening in other parts of the world, in Africa and the Middle East. They’re coming because they’re criminals that see the opportunity to go into the United States from abroad. Those issues are relevant. 

“The other relevant issues are those that involve our national security, our own interests. America is a big, powerful country, the most powerful in the world. We have global interests. We sell our products and goods all over the world. Americans travel all over the world. So, we have interests in all parts of the world. 

“Now, we have domestic needs, too. We’re not in an era where we can go around being the government of the world and solving every problem on the planet. I look at the situation in Haiti: it’s heartbreaking, it’s very tragic. There’s not a lot we can do about it, to be honest. We have very few options about what we do in that regard. I think we live in a period of time in which we have to be very smart about prioritizing what is in our national interest, what we have to do, versus what we’d like to do. The ‘have to do’ is what we have to focus on. 

“But we can’t isolate ourselves from the world’s problems. Just because we ignore them, they will not ignore us. We’re America, and they will come for us.”