Support for TikTok ban due to 'overwhelming' Gaza content, says Mitt Romney

Support for TikTok ban due to 'overwhelming' Gaza content, says Mitt Romney
Former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that support for banning TikTok was linked to the availability of pro-Palestinian content there.
3 min read
07 May, 2024
Mitt Romney said that there was "overwhelming" mentions of Palestinians on Tik Tok [Getty]

The support for a nationwide ban on TikTok  in America is related to the "overwhelming" number of mentions of Palestine on the platform, US senator and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said last week

Speaking at an event at the McCain Institute think-tank alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Romney explained that the ban on the app passed both chambers of Congress due to apparent widespread mention and advocacy for Palestine.

"Some wonder why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok or other entities of that nature. If you look at the postings on TikTok and the number of mentions of Palestinians relative to other social media sites, it’s overwhelmingly so among TikTok broadcasts," said Romney, who unsuccessfully ran against Barack Obama in 2012.

He noted that the spread of images from Gaza and the Palestinian territories as well as the "emotions" related to those contents had a "very challenging effect on the narrative".

During the event, he expressed surprise over Israel’s inability to "control the narrative" on Gaza.

"I mean, typically the Israeli are good at PR. What’s happened here? How have they-how have they, and we, been so ineffective at communicating the realities there and our point of view?" he asked Blinken, seemingly referencing widespread availability of reports and footage of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza.

According to Axios, supporters of the ban have tried to promote it as a national security measure to prevent misinformation and data collection by the popular Chinese-owned video sharing platform.

Romney’s comments triggered backlash from free-speech advocates, who say the proposed ban, which passed with majorities in the House and Senate last month, would violate the First Amendment.

This is not the first time a US lawmaker has used pro-Palestine content as a justification for the ban.

According to a recording of a meeting obtained by The Intercept, Mike Lawler told attendees of a webinar with prominent figures opposing student protests in support of Gaza that the protests were “exactly why we included the TikTok bill in the foreign supplemental aid package”.

He added that "kids are being manipulated by certain groups or entities or countries to foment hate on their behalf and really create a hostile environment here in the US".

Lawler also pushed claims that student protests in the US were being organised and coordinated by “outside paid agitators and activists”.

However, TikTok has maintained that they are not boosting any pro-Palestine content, adding they removed more than 3.1 million videos and suspended more than 140,000 livestreams in Israel and Palestine since 7 October.

The discussions on the ban come as Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza continues despite truce efforts.

Over 34,700 Palestinians have been killed and at least 78,000 wounded since last October.