Sen. Marco Rubio rails against TikTok as majority of Florida’s Congressional Delegation votes in favor of platform ban

by | Mar 13, 2024

Florida’s Congressional Delegation mostly supported a bill to compel TikTok’s sale or face a U.S. ban, with dissent from Reps. Matt Gaetz, Greg Steube, and Maxwell Alejandro Frost over concerns about its breadth, potential misuse, and First Amendment implications.

Florida’s Congressional Delegation on Wednesday largely voted in favor of federal legislation that would force TikTok’s parent company to sell the platform or face a ban in the United States, with just three Representatives voting in dissent.

The three opponents of the bill, Republicans Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Greg Steube, alongside Democrat Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, each took separate issue with the drafted measure. In a post to X following the vote, Gaetz claimed that the bill held the “right ideas, but was rushed and overly broad in scope, while Steube expressed concern that the legislation would be “weaponized against conservatives,” with the potential to be wielded against American-owned companies. Frost, meanwhile, cited potential First Amendment issues.

“There are first amendment issues I see with taking away a platform that over 170 million American’s use, and this won’t fix the serious issues we have with data privacy,” Frost said.

Representatives Neal Dunn, Kat Cammack, Aaron Bean, John Rutherford, Michael Waltz, Cory Mills, Bill Posey, Darren Soto, Daniel Webster, Gus Bilirakis, Anna Paulina Luna, Kathy Castor, Laurel Lee, Vern Buchanan, Scott Franklin, Byron Donalds, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Brian Mast, Jared Moskowitz, Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart, Maria Elvira Salazar, and Carlos Giménez all voted in favor.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a longstanding proponent of a move to ban TikTok, praised the House of Representatives following its 352-65 vote to advance the bill, and called upon his fellow Senate lawmakers to take similar action.

“We are united in our concern about the national security threat posed by TikTok – a platform with enormous power to influence and divide Americans whose parent company ByteDance remains legally required to do the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party,” Rubio said in a bipartisan joint statement with Virginia Senator Mark Warner. “We were encouraged by today’s strong bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, and look forward to working together to get this bill passed through the Senate and signed into law.”

Sen. Rick Scott has also undertaken efforts to remove the platform from American devices, joining a group of Republican senators and Representatives last year, to call on all members of Congress “to lead by example” by ceasing the use of the China-based app TikTok and urge the House and Senate rules be amended to ban members of Congress from continued use of TikTok.

“It is troublesome that some members continue to disregard these clear warnings and are even encouraging their constituents to use TikTok to interface with their elected representatives – especially since some of these users are minors,” wrote the members, including Scott. “We feel this situation warrants further action to protect the privacy of both sensitive congressional information and the personal information of our constituents. To that end, we urge you to enact a change to the Senate and House rules to ban members of Congress from using TikTok for official use.”

At the state level, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law last year that directs the state Department of Management Services to create a list of prohibited applications that it considers security risks, including TikTok and WeChat. Similarly, the Board of Governors for the State University System (SUS) of Florida in 2023 amended preexisting regulations that grants universities across the state the right to prohibit the use of TikTok and other cyber threats of concern on SUS devices and wireless infrastructure. The directive was based upon a consolidated list sourced from various threat intelligence providers, such as the Federal Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Florida Fusion Center.

Several state colleges — including the University of Florida — preemptively advised its students to abandon using TikTok, citing growing security concerns. The university referred to the platform as a “national security risk,” pointing to the possibility that foreign governments may use TikTok to control data collection and compromise personal devices.”

Florida State University (FSU) also barred access to a series of software applications including TikTok, as well as several other China-based platforms like WeChat and Tencent QQ. In an email sent to faculty and students obtained by The Capitolist at the time of the motion, FSU claimed that on-campus access to the services brings about unnecessary risk due to connections to potentially malicious foreign governments that are capable of obtaining biometric data through the apps.


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