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GOP Rep. roasts pro-TikTok Dem for saying Republicans seeking to ban platform 'ain't got no swag'

"What is this high school?" Texas Republican Troy Nehls responded to New York Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Published: March 25, 2023 11:29pm

Texas Republican Rep. Troy Nehls rebuked Rep. Jamaal Bowman for being flippant about the dangers TikTok poses to youth mental health after the New York Democrat attributed Republican support for a ban on the popular, Chinese-owned video sharing platform to a lack of "swag."

Currently, many Republicans in Congress and a growing number of Democrats are in favor of a nationwide ban on TikTok, for reasons ranging from national security and user data privacy to the targeting of the young with harmful content.

During a protest outside the Capitol Wednesday, Bowman, a progressive Democrat opposed to the ban, impugned the motives of ban advocates in the familiar terms of identity politics, urging Congress to "not be racist towards China and express our xenophobia when it comes to TikTok."

Bowman also took another, somewhat head-scratching, swipe at his opponents.

"Republicans ain't got no swag, that's why they want a ban," he declared.

Asked for a response Thursday, Nehls ripped Bowman for trivializing a serious issue.

"Give me a break," Nehls retorted. "What are we teenagers? What is this high school? ... Is this a popularity contest? Am I running for class president? This is serious stuff.

Nehls continued, alluding to a mother who sued TikTok last year, alleging her daughter died from imitating a dangerous stunt that the app's demographic targeting algorithm curated for her. "How would Bowman feel if we get the mother of the 10-year-old that committed suicide?" Nehls asked. "You think he's going to look her in the eyeballs like I'm looking at you and say, 'I want to talk to you a little bit about swag'? Give me a break. This is serious business." 

Nehls is in favor of banning TikTok, in part, because it is owned by ByteDance, the Chinese company which has access to personal data related to the platform's millions of users.

"We have to act responsibly," Nehls said. "We have to put the American people first and their children. We must do it today. I don't see the fight here. I don't see the arguments. I don't see the argument other than the guy in the White House. He's owned by China."

Nehls rejected the First Amendment argument.

"You can't justify keeping it," he said. "Don't tell me this is a First Amendment thing. People here in the states that want to have TikTok, oh, go to a different app. There's a lot of great apps out there."

Nehls said Chinese President Xi Jinping wouldn't allow him to bring an American app to China. Currently, U.S.-based apps like Facebook are banned in China.

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