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Trump waffles on TikTok ban, says doing so would ‘make Facebook bigger’

Former president Donald Trump said Monday that he agrees that Chinese-owned TikTok is a national security risk but again indicated he no longer supports banning it in the United States because, he said, doing so would lead to increased support for Facebook, which he lambasted as “an enemy of the people.”

In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday, Trump claimed that he had nearly banned TikTok when he was president — “I was at the point I could have gotten it done if I wanted to” — but left it up to Congress, which ultimately did not pass a bill to do so.

“Frankly, a lot of people are on TikTok that love it. Young kids on TikTok would go crazy without it. A lot of users,” Trump said, acknowledging the popularity of the social media app. “There’s, you know, a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok, but the thing I don’t like is that, without TikTok you can make Facebook bigger. I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people, along with a lot of the media.”

Asked whether he still considered TikTok a national security threat, Trump said he did, but again pointed a finger at Facebook and other unnamed American companies that he said were also security risks.

Trump’s comments were similar to a post he made on his social media platform last week, in which he falsely accused Facebook of having “cheated” in the last election.

“If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and [co-founder Mark Zuckerberg] will double their business,” Trump wrote, using a nickname to mock Zuckerberg. “They are a true Enemy of the People!”

Citing his comments leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — in which a pro-Trump mob overran the complex, seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win — Facebook suspended Trump for two years, saying at the time that it would only reinstate him if “the risk to public safety has receded.”

Facebook’s parent company, since rebranded Meta, reinstated Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in January 2023.

On Monday, Trump also denied that a recent meeting he had with hedge fund manager Jeff Yass, a GOP donor who has a stake in TikTok, was what caused him to reverse his position on TikTok.

“He never mentioned TikTok,” Trump said. “[His wife] did mention school choice.”

Representatives for TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Trump’s comments about TikTok come amid debate in Congress over a bill that could result in the app being banned in the United States. President Biden has said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

The bill is the latest threat to the app, which despite critics’ concerns about data security and its Chinese connections says it has more than 170 million monthly active users in the United States. The bill would not directly ban TikTok but would force its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app or face restrictions that could bar it from U.S. app stores.

On Thursday, a House committee advanced the bill on a unanimous bipartisan vote, 50-0, after TikTok users flooded congressional offices with calls protesting the measure. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said he supports the measure, and House Minority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) vowed to bring the bill to a floor vote this week.

However, the bill needs to pass both chambers before reaching Biden’s desk, and the Senate has yet to introduce companion legislation.

correction

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that TikTok has been downloaded 170 million times in the United States. The social media company says it has 170 million monthly U.S. users. This article has been corrected.

Will Oremus and Drew Harwell contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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