With calls for a national ban against TikTok growing more and more common by the week, particularly in Congress, it’s never been a tougher time to be a lawmaker publicly supporting the app. Still, a vocal minority of House and Senate Democrats—no Republicans—are defying those calls and doing so on the platform despite recent federal laws barring the app on government devices.
The few politicians willing to stick their necks out on the short-form video app overwhelmingly come from one party. Gizmodo could not find any official TikTok accounts associated with Republican lawmakers. Only a handful of the roughly two dozen Democrats on TikTok have made a point to actually publicly weigh in on the ban. New York’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, fellow progressive lawmakers in “The Squad,” have emerged as two of the platforms’ highest-profile supporters. Combined, these lawmakers say TikTok is the symptom of larger privacy issues pervading all of social media and that the Chinese app is being unfairly singled out.
When they aren’t protesting a ban, the congressmen on TikTok use it much like anyone else would, often chasing trends and copying memes in an effort to grow their brands and reach a young audience. And yes, if you were wondering, they are often extremely cringe. Even so, the platform, with its estimated 150 million US users, is increasingly becoming a crucial tool for lawmakers looking to stay relevant among younger voters.
The lawmakers appear to be tiptoeing around the current federal ban of TikTok on government devices by using it on their personal phones or relying on their staff’s phones. Many say they aren’t convinced of still unproven claims suggesting the Chinese government could use the app to conduct surveillance.
“It’s like turning your cell phone off on an airplane. You’re supposed to do it. And if it was super dangerous, I don’t think we would be allowed to have the phone on the plane,” Rep. Greg Landsman of Ohio told the Associated Press recently. “So if it was super dangerous for members of Congress to have this app on their phone, you have to imagine the administration or our government would say absolutely not.” The Biden administration has, in fact, said that, but here we are.
Here are the lawmakers going to bat for TikTok, on TikTok.