TikTok Talk

Heritage senior fellow claims there’s ‘no evidence’ of Chinese censorship on TikTok

Former Trump official John McEntee admits he’s grown his business through the app, but claims that hasn’t clouded his thinking


Former President Donald Trump, with former Director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office John McEntee, walks to the Oval Office as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, on September 11, 2020 after attending a ceremony in Shanksville, Pa.

A senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, an initiative organizing a future Trump administration policy platform and staffing apparatus, went against the think tank’s position on TikTok by claiming in a CNBC interview that there is “no evidence” of Chinese censorship on the app and dismissing national security concerns as folly. 

John McEntee, a former Trump administration official, acknowledged at the beginning of his CNBC interview on Tuesday that he has grown his business, a dating app for conservatives called The Right Stuff, through TikTok “more than anything,” though he goes on to claim throughout the interview that this does not cloud his thinking on the matter. 

“That’s not why I’m against the bill. I’m against the bill because it’s new censorship power for the government,” McEntee said during a “Squawk Box” appearance, referring to the House legislation banning the app.

“The only two things they say are Chinese propaganda – which no one has ever seen, there’s been no instance of that – or American user data. But American user data, it’s all stored in America with Oracle, an American company,” McEntee added when asked about the national security implications of leaving TikTok unregulated. “Are they scared of it somehow getting to China? Well, why don’t we ban the sale of American data to China? American companies do that.”

McEntee went on to say that TikTok is “incredibly powerful, and that’s why they [Congress] want to ban it. It’s news and a narrative they can’t control. It has nothing to do with China. The Chinese government doesn’t own TikTok, ByteDance does. That’s not even a Chinese company, that’s a global company.”

Asked about concerns over TikTok’s algorithm from a sizable bipartisan majority in Congress, including leading conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), McEntee denied that either are a problem.

“The TikTok algorithm feeds you things off of your own interests. It doesn’t promote anything. It doesn’t put out its own content. Creators create things, they share videos. Hard stop,” McEntee said. “It’s a younger audience, which is why [baby] boomers have a hard time understanding this.” 

McEntee also dismissed concerns that the app is feeding antisemitic and anti-Israel content to its young base of subscribers, arguing that it only reflects the anti-Israel views of Gen Z Americans.

“Why is there less pro-Israel content? Well, the younger generation is less pro-Israel, that might be good or bad or whatever, but it’s just feeding American public opinion,” McEntee continued. “No one’s actually like promoting or censoring Uighur content, it’s just not a top-of-mind issue for most Americans. That’s why you don’t see it.”

A Heritage Foundation spokesperson declined to comment to Jewish Insider on McEntee’s claims about TikTok, despite the conservative think tank openly backing the effort to regulate the social media app and being vocal about the national security threats posed by the company and its technology.

Kara Frederick, the director of Heritage’s Tech Policy Center, said last month that “TikTok is so in bed with Communist China that it seems reticent to reach for the clean divestment option this legislation gives the company. This should tell you all you need to know about the grip the CCP has on TikTok.”

A Trump campaign spokesperson did not respond to JI’s request for comment on the matter either. Former President Donald Trump has criticized the House legislation banning TikTok if the platform is not sold to a company without ties to the Chinese Communist Party, arguing it would benefit Meta and other competing companies. 

At the end of his presidency, Trump attempted to ban TikTok before a court blocked the effort.

Heritage’s Asian Studies Center published a commentary piece last month noting the think tank’s “long track record of warning about the threats TikTok poses to Americans.” The group mentions senior Heritage Fellow Mike Gonzalez’s 2019 warnings about China’s attempts to manipulate public opinion in the U.S. through several avenues, including media. 

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