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Trump Warns Against TikTok Ban, Brands Facebook ‘Enemy of the People’

Former US President Donald Trump has criticized a congressional bill aimed at compelling TikTok’s parent company to sell the app or face a ban in the United States.

Mr. Trump, who sought to ban TikTok in 2020 during his tenure in the White House, voiced concerns that the proposed legislation would unfairly favor Meta, the owner of Facebook.

Lawmakers are currently discussing a proposal that would mandate ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to divest the platform by September 30.

President Joe Biden has indicated his intention to sign the bill into law if it successfully passes through Congress.

“Without TikTok, you could make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people,” Mr. Trump stated during an NBC interview on Monday.

Responding to queries regarding the app’s security, the former president acknowledged, “there’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad” associated with the social media platform.

“There are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who would go crazy without it,” Mr. Trump added.

The US intelligence community has issued warnings about the Chinese government’s exploitation of TikTok to undermine US leadership and democratic processes.

In an annual report released on Monday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence noted that TikTok accounts affiliated with the Chinese government’s propaganda apparatus “reportedly targeted candidates from both political parties during the U.S. midterm election cycle in 2022.”

Mr. Trump concurred with the assessment that TikTok poses a national security threat but also contended that Facebook poses similar risks to the US government.

“I think Facebook has been very bad for our country, especially when it comes to elections,” Mr. Trump remarked.

Following Mr. Trump’s criticism, shares in Meta, Facebook’s parent company, experienced a notable decline, dropping more than 4% on a day when stock markets were generally stable. Similarly, shares in Snap, a smaller social media competitor, also saw a decrease.

Mr. Trump’s remarks provide a glimpse of the heightened political scrutiny social media companies are expected to face this year as the November presidential election approaches.

TikTok previously faced significant pressure for a sale or ban in 2020 during the last presidential election campaign involving Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.

At that time, American officials expressed concerns that data controlled by ByteDance, a Chinese tech conglomerate, could potentially be accessed by the Chinese government.

Executives at TikTok have consistently denied sharing any data with Beijing and have pledged to resist any such requests.

In 2020, Mr. Trump issued an executive order directing ByteDance to divest TikTok within 90 days, but the order faced legal challenges.

Meta subsequently banned Mr. Trump’s accounts following the US Capitol riot in 2021.

The Club for Growth, a conservative lobbying organization closely associated with Mr. Trump, has vehemently opposed the proposed TikTok ban.

Last week, Mr. Trump met with Jeff Yass, a billionaire hedge fund manager and major donor to the Club for Growth.

Kellyanne Conway, a former senior aide to Mr. Trump in the White House, has recently lobbied Congress on behalf of the Club for Growth in support of TikTok.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department, FBI, and other national security agencies are scheduled to brief all members of the House of Representatives on TikTok’s implications on Tuesday. TikTok remains one of the most popular apps in the US, particularly among younger demographics, according to CBS News, a media partner of the BBC.

The bipartisan bill cleared a congressional committee last week with a unanimous vote of 50-0.

The Senate must also vote in favor of the bill before it can be enacted into law.

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