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    ‘Executive guy’ DeSantis doesn’t want to be Trump 2024 running mate

    Ron DeSantis, the rightwing Florida governor and rising Republican star, has said he would not accept an offer to be Donald Trump’s running mate because he is “probably more of an executive guy”.“I think that you want to be able to do things,” the Florida governor told the hard-right Newsmax channel.DeSantis has not yet entered the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination but he is Trump’s only serious rival in polling and is widely expected to announce his run in the coming months. DeSantis’s growing influence in Republican politics has seen Trump turn his guns on his ambitions.This week, relations between the two men turned especially sour.Though DeSantis has dutifully attacked Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney expected to indict Trump, he has also floated criticism of Trump for making the hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels that is at issue in New York.DeSantis has also questioned Trump’s governing style and handling of the Covid pandemic. Performing a U-turn on the Ukraine war after widespread criticism of earlier remarks, DeSantis moved away from the isolationist position favoured by Trump and much of the right of the party.Trump has fired off nicknames, abuse and insinuations about DeSantis’s behaviour around young women as a teacher and even that he might be gay.Perhaps correspondingly, the former president has increased his polling lead.Despite all that, on Thursday the Newsmax host Eric Bolling asked DeSantis if he would consider becoming Trump’s vice-president.“I think I’m probably more of an executive guy,” DeSantis said. “I think that you want to be able to do things. That’s part of the reason I got into this job is because we have action. We’re able to make things happen, and I think that’s probably what I am best suited for.“The whole [Republican] party, regardless of any personalities or individuals, you have got to be looking at 2024 and saying, if the Biden regime continues, and they’re able to pick up 10 to 15 seats in the House and a Senate seat or two, this country is going to be in really, really bad shape.”The governor then plugged his book, The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.Rather than a primary campaign, DeSantis has mounted a book tour: in part because under Florida law he is supposed to resign his state office to pursue a federal post.On Friday, the Daily Beast detailed what it said were “a few road bumps” hit by the tour, including the withdrawal of the top event coordinator.Amid reports of missing podiums and snubbed power brokers, a source described as a “seasoned GOP presidential campaign strategist” told the Beast: “This is amateur hour.” Another “Republican observer” said the operation was “out over its skis”.A “Florida Republican consultant who has advised DeSantis” said: “I think it’s gone poorly. I hear nothing but they are unhappy.”Such reports have provoked glee in the Trump camp. In a message viewed by the Guardian, one veteran operative said: “Heard this was coming. No one is running the place.”Many primaries feature an early frontrunner who soon flames out. Examples include Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who went nowhere quickly in 2016, and Howard Dean of Vermont, who crashed out after a strong start in the Democratic race in 2004.Discussing DeSantis’s decision to take shots at Trump, the anonymous Republican strategist told the Beast: “If you’re running for president … you’re selling to the largest stakeholder audience anyone could have. Why would he go out there … and offend voters that you need?“I think that they blew it. People need to remember, when you peak too soon, that’s a problem. And DeSantis peaked too soon.” More

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    Michael Cohen’s lawyer compares Trump to Clinton-Lewinsky case

    A lawyer representing a key witness in the investigation into Donald Trump over hush money payments has drawn comparisons between the case and the sex scandal that embroiled Bill Clinton, as it became clear there would be no indictment in the Trump investigation until next week at the earliest.Lanny Davis, who represents Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, hypothesized about what might have happened if Clinton had handled his affair with Monica Lewinsky differently.Clinton was impeached in his second term after lying about his relationship with Lewinsky while he was president. Davis, who served as a special adviser to Clinton, speculated about how the Democrat might have been perceived if a representative had paid money to Lewinsky.Cohen, who was Trump’s lawyer and fixer for more than a decade before he turned on his former boss, paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels to prevent her from going public with allegations that she and Trump slept together a decade before he won the White House.“I won’t mention the name of the former president I worked for,” Davis told Politico in an interview.“But can you imagine if … he had written personal checks as part of that controversy?“Can you imagine if I had personal checks out of a checking account of a sitting president that reimburses a hush money scheme, and then I used a legal argument to say why he should get off: because New York state law doesn’t apply to federal law? Good luck!”Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison for ​​tax evasion and campaign-finance violations related to the Daniels payment, has been a key witness in the investigation into Trump.The now-disbarred lawyer paid Daniels through a shell company, and was then reimbursed through Trump, whose company logged the reimbursements as legal expenses. The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is leading the investigation into potential wrongdoing by Trump.Davis, a lawyer and longtime political operative, claimed in the Politico interview that he himself had triggered that investigation by speaking to Cyrus Vance, Bragg’s predecessor.“Cyrus Vance Sr was the secretary of state under Jimmy Carter – I’m showing my age now […] I was in my 20s when President Carter was elected,” Davis told Politico.“And I got to know Mr Vance. So his son, being the DA of [Manhattan], I called after Michael was sent to prison.”Davis said he believed “the evidence of financial fraud was on the record in the [congressional] hearings and that Vance’s office should interview Michael”.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“They came to Otisville [the prison where Cohen served some of his sentence] … They did manage to get a visit, and then two and then three separate visits at the beginning,” Davis said.“And that’s how it began.”Davis’s interview came as the investigation into Trump rolled on in New York. Reports had suggested Trump would be indicted this week – Trump himself claimed, wrongly, last weekend that he would be arrested on Tuesday – but the grand jury hearing the case is not due to meet again until Monday.In the meantime Trump, who is the subject of multiple other legal inquiries, warned on Friday of “potential death and destruction” should he be charged in the case.In a rambling, idiosyncratically punctuated message posted on Truth Social, a niche rightwing social media network that he owns, at 1am, Trump wrote:“What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely [sic] hates the USA!” More

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    ‘Parents’ rights’: Republicans wage education culture war as 2024 looms

    Speaking recently at a theater in Davenport, Iowa, Donald Trump marveled at the crowd’s reaction when he vowed to “bring back parental rights into our schools”. The line elicited thunderous applause – one of the loudest ovations of his nearly two-hour address.“Can you imagine what I’m doing? I’m saying, ‘Parents, you have rights’ … and the place goes crazy,” remarked the former president, who is again seeking the Republican nomination.With the 2024 election cycle looming, Republicans are leaning into the education culture wars, championing policies that they say will give parents more of a say in their children’s education, from the subjects they are taught to the books they read, with hopes of appealing to suburban voters who recoiled from the party during the Trump years. In their telling, Republicans are the defenders of America’s schoolchildren whose education is threatened by a leftwing ideology that promotes activism, racial history and gender fluidity over academic outcomes.But critics and many educators say conservatives are using the term “parents’ rights” as a guise to advance a rightwing education agenda that undermines public schools, whitewashes American history and marginalizes LGBTQ+ students.The debate took center stage in the House this week, where Republicans broke into cheers after narrowly advancing their “Parents Bill of Rights”. Friday’s vote followed a contentious 16-hour committee hearing and a bitter floor debate over the legislation, whose sponsor argued would “bring more transparency and accountability to education” and whose opponents derisively rebranded the “politics over parents act”.Democrats argued that the bill would only serve to embolden a far-right movement that has pushed book bans, restrictions on the instruction of American history and turned classrooms into “ground zero” for conservative culture wars.“This legislation has nothing to do with parental involvement,” said Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic House minority leader. “It has everything to do with jamming the extreme Maga Republican ideology down the throats of the children and the parents of the United States of America.”Though the legislation has little chance of advancing in the Democratic-controlled Senate, it will serve as a rallying cry for Republicans on the campaign trail.‘A line in the sand’The origins of the “parents’ rights” movement, experts say, can be traced back to the 1925 “trial of the century” in which a Tennessee biology teacher was fined for teaching evolution in violation of state law. The term has been invoked repeatedly in the decades since, notably in clashes related to desegregation, the red scare, sex education and homeschooling.“The idea of parents’ rights is really nothing new in American politics,” said Melissa Deckman, the CEO of the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute who has written extensively about culture war battles in education.The present-day movement emerged in response to the upheaval sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, when extended school lockdowns led to a burst of political activism by parents who felt overwhelmed and abandoned, and by the racial justice protests that erupted in the summer of 2020, with the murder of George Floyd. Conservative politicians were quick to seize on any backlash, channeling voter frustration into a sophisticated national campaign aimed at restricting instruction on race and gender.As the presidential primary begins to take shape, the notional field of Republican hopefuls are using the education battles to distinguish themselves on an issue they believe has the potential to motivate their base.By far the most aggressive education culture warrior has been Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who is widely seen as Trump’s strongest rival for the Republican nomination, though he has not formally entered the contest.“I think we have really done a great job of drawing a line in the sand to say the purpose of our schools is to educate kids not to indoctrinate kids,” DeSantis said at a recent event in Des Moines, Iowa.He has pointed to his successes in Florida, where he notably signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Act, branded by critics as “don’t say gay”, which forbids the instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in early elementary grades. He also approved the “Stop Woke Act” that restricts conversations around race in schools, colleges and even private workplaces; banned transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams at public schools and colleges; and blocked high schools in the state from offering an Advanced Placement course on African American studies.Emboldened by his re-election victory, DeSantis is now pushing a raft of education-related proposals that would go even further ahead of an anticipated White House run.Not to be outflanked, Trump and the budding field of GOP candidates and potential contenders have also sharpened their attacks on the education system.In Iowa this month, Trump vowed to prohibit the teaching of “critical race theory”, “transgender insanity” and “any other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content” in public classrooms while calling for universal school choice, the direct election of school principals by parents and breaking up the Department of Education.Former vice-president Mike Pence, who built a reputation as a staunch social conservative and is weighing a run for president, has also staked out territory in the education wars, pushing what he calls a “parents’ rights” agenda. In Iowa last month, he stood with conservative parents as a federal appeals court considered a case involving a local school district’s policy to support transgender students.Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador who is now challenging him for the nomination, has denounced critical race theory as “un-American” and blamed leftwing ideology for fueling a culture of “woke self-loathing” she has called a “virus more dangerous than any pandemic”. And in a likely preview of the education fights to come, Haley suggested Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” law “didn’t go far enough”.‘A front-row seat’In 2021, Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the race for Virginia’s governor under the banner of “Parents matter” in a state that had been steadily trending blue offered a model for Republicans candidates across the country.“During Covid, parents for the first time weren’t just going to PTA conferences; they were literally turning their living rooms into classrooms and so they got a front-row seat to curriculum, standards, grading, teaching practices,” said Kristin Davison, a top strategist for Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign. “That awoke a number of parents across the political spectrum to demand more out of their schools.”As governor, Youngkin issued a day one executive order prohibiting the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory” from Virginia classrooms and overhauled policies related to transgender students in public schools. He also set up a tip line for parents to report teachers who raise “divisive” topics in the classroom, thought it has since been shut down.With parents and teachers continuing to grapple with the repercussions of the pandemic on students – the learning loss and mental health challenges – Davison believes the education agenda championed by Republican politicians like Youngkin, who has also been raised as a potential presidential candidate in 2024, will only become more resonant with voters.Since Youngkin’s election, the conservative campaign to expand parental control over public education has moved from contentious school board meetings to state capitols and now Congress. Over the last two years, Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted or are considering a dizzying array of new proposals limiting the instruction of what proponents deem “divisive concepts” in public schools.And this week House Republicans pressed ahead with their “Parents Bill of Rights”, a centerpiece of their midterm election campaign and a top priority for the speaker, Kevin McCarthy.The measure outlines five pillars that Republicans say will guarantee a parent’s right to scrutinize library books and classroom curricula and review school budgets, among other aspects. It would also require parents’ consent before a student is allowed to change their gender designation, pronouns or name, a provision that Democrats warned would force schools to out LGBTQ+ students to their families that may not be accepting of their identity.“Parents across this country have overwhelmingly spoken out that they have had enough,” said Julia Letlow, the Republican congresswoman of Louisiana who sponsored the bill. “They want a seat at the table because at the end of the day, these are our children, not the government’s.”‘It’s just terrible what they’re doing’Democrats say the focus on divisive cultural issues distracts from the real challenges facing American students and public education – and suspect voters will punish Republicans for it.They point to the midterms results and polling as evidence that voters are more concerned about school funding, teacher shortages, student mental health and campus safety than they are about the instruction of critical race theory, an academic framework for examining systemic racism in American institutions.A pre-election memo by the Republican National Committee last year seemed to recognize that risk and last year advised candidates to center their general election pitch on “parental rights and quality education”, as opposed to cultural attacks.And though DeSantis soared to re-election last year in Florida, several other GOP candidates for governor who pushed a socially conservative agenda lost, including in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. House Republicans failed to secure the dominating majority they predicted, while many of the “parents’ rights” activists who ran for seats on their local school board came up short, even though conservative groups poured millions of dollars into winning the once-sleepy contests.“Unless we say stupid things,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said, a reference to the debate-stage blunder by the party’s nominee for Virginia governor that many believe contributed to Youngkin’s victory, “our proactive agenda of quality education, well-paid teachers, mental health and job skills beats their agenda of transgender, CRT every single time.”Democrats believe they can offer a strong contrast. They are promoting an education agenda focused on boosting federal funding for public schools and raising teachers’ pay while expanding pre-K programs and increasing college affordability, plans that face strong Republican resistance.In the president’s State of the Union address, Joe Biden, who is expected to run for re-election, proposed two years of tuition-free community college as a way to expand access to “the best career training in America”. He also used his executive authority to forgive more than $400bn in student-loan debt, an action that enraged Republicans and some Democrats and which the supreme court appears poised to invalidate.In a recent interview, Biden criticized the flurry of legislation targeting transgender students and athletes and singled out new laws in Florida as particularly problematic.“What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful,” he said. “It’s just terrible what they’re doing.”‘Peddling hysteria’For many of the teachers, parents and students caught up in the political battle of so-called parents’ rights, the impact has been disorienting and demoralizing.Public school teachers, already grappling with the impacts of the pandemic on their students’ mental health and academic achievement, are now trying to navigate a thicket of new restrictions that critics say are having a chilling effect on what they can discuss in the classroom.Educators and librarians have come under attack, inundated with conspiracy-fueled accusations that they are “grooming” students by offering books that address LGBTQ+ issues. Some have quit or retired early, exacerbating, some say, the nation’s teacher shortage.A survey by the Pew Research Center found that parents divided sharply along partisan lines when asked how their school-age children should be taught about gender identity, the legacy of slavery and whether they had enough influence over school curriculum. But some polls have found broader support for laws restricting certain instruction on gender and sexuality in elementary grades.There are areas of consensus. In general, Americans strongly oppose book bans and believe students should be taught both “the good and bad” aspects of American history. And though public attitudes on transgender rights are complex and still being shaped, especially on issues involving trans youth, Americans remain widely supportive of laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.But as the debate over parental rights in education rages, LGBTQ+ students, and especially trans youth, say the efforts to place aggressive controls on their identities is harming their mental health, while LGBTQ+ parents in states like Florida reporting that they have considered moving away to protect their families.“The politicians and rightwing zealots behind this anti-LGBTQ+ movement are peddling hysteria,” said Brandon Wolf of the LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida, adding: “While it’s a marketing ploy for those folks, it has had real impacts on people across the state.”Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, denounced Republicans’ attacks on public education as a “divisive” political strategy. While it may serve Republicans on the campaign trail, she said, it was doing a “disservice” in the classroom, where teachers must prepare students for a world that is socially, culturally and technologically different than the one into which their parents graduated.“I don’t think it has anything to do with parental rights or education,” she said. “I think it’s a fear of the future.” More

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    Trump stays out of handcuffs – for now: Politics Weekly America podcast

    Last weekend, Donald Trump predicted he would be arrested. This has yet to happen. So why did he bring attention to a hush money case that could put him in handcuffs soon?
    Jonathan Freedland and Hugo Lowell discuss why Donald Trump might still face criminal charges next week, and why it might actually benefit his campaign

    How to listen to podcasts: everything you need to know More

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    Utah bans under-18s from using social media unless parents consent

    The governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, has signed sweeping social media legislation requiring explicit parental permissions for anyone under 18 to use platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. He also signed a bill prohibiting social media companies from employing techniques that could cause minors to develop an “addiction” to the platforms.The former is the first state law in the US prohibiting social media services from allowing access to minors without parental consent. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed both bills earlier this month, despite opposition from civil liberties groups.“We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth,” Cox, a Republican, said in a message on Twitter.The impact of social media on children has become a topic of growing debate among lawmakers at the state and federal levels. On the same day Cox signed the bills in Utah, TikTok’s CEO testified before Congress to address concerns about national security, data privacy and teen users’ mental health.The new law prohibiting minors from accessing social media without their parents’ consent would also allow parents or guardians to access all of their children’s posts. The platforms will be required to block users younger than 18 from accessing accounts between 10.30pm and 6.30am unless parents modify the settings.The laws also prohibit social media companies from advertising to minors, collecting information about them or targeting content to them.What’s not clear from the Utah laws and others is how the states plan to enforce the new regulations. Companies are already prohibited from collecting data on children younger than 13 without parental consent under the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. For this reason, social media companies already ban kids under 13 from signing up to their platforms – but children can easily get around it, both with and without their parents’ permission.Civil liberties groups have raised concerns that such provisions will block marginalized youth including LGBTQ+ teens from accessing online support networks and information.Tech groups have also opposed the laws. “Utah will soon require online services to collect sensitive information about teens and families, not only to verify ages, but to verify parental relationships, like government-issued IDs and birth certificates, putting their private data at risk of breach,” said Nicole Saad Bembridge, an associate director at NetChoice, a tech lobby group. “These laws also infringe on Utahans’ first amendment rights to share and access speech online – an effort already rejected by the supreme court in 1997.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionThe law will take effect next March. Michael McKell, the Republican state senator who sponsored the bill, told the New York Times that social media is “a contributing factor” to poor teen mental health, and that the laws were intended to address that issue.Several states have sought to enact guardrails for young social media users. Lawmakers in Connecticut and Ohio have put forward measures to require parental permissions for users younger than 16. Lawmakers in Arkansas and Texas have also introduced bills to restrict social media use among minors under 18, with the latter aiming to ban social media accounts for minors entirely.California enacted a measure requiring social media networks to enact the highest privacy settings for users younger than 18 as a default. More

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    Key takeaways from TikTok hearing in Congress – and the uncertain road ahead

    The first appearance in Congress for TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew stretched more than five hours, with contentious questioning targeting the app’s relationship with China and protections for its youngest users.Chew’s appearance comes at a pivotal time for TikTok, which is facing bipartisan fire after experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. The company is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, raising concerns about China’s influence over the app – criticisms Chew repeatedly tried to resist throughout the hearing.“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” he said in prepared testimony.He defended TikTok’s privacy practices, stating they are are in line with those of other social media platforms, adding that in many cases the app collects less data than its peers. “There are more than 150 million Americans who love our platform, and we know we have a responsibility to protect them,” Chew said.Here are some of the other key criticisms Chew faced at Thursday’s landmark hearing, and what could lie ahead.TikTok’s relationship to China under fireMany members of the committee focused on ByteDance and its executives, who lawmakers say have ties to the Chinese Communist party.The committee members asked how frequently Chew was in contact with them, and questioned whether the company’s proposed solution, called Project Texas, would offer sufficient protection against Chinese laws that require companies to make user data accessible to the government.At one point, Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat from California, asked Chew outright if TikTok is a Chinese company. Chew responded that TikTok is global in nature, not available in mainland China, and headquartered in Singapore and Los Angeles.Neal Dunn, a Republican from Florida, asked with similar bluntness whether ByteDance has “spied on American citizens” – a question that came amid reports the company accessed journalists’ information in an attempt to identify which employees were leaking information. Chew responded that “spying is not the right way to describe it”.Concerns about the viability of ‘Project Texas’In an effort to deflect concerns about Chinese influence, TikTok has pledged to relocate all US user data to domestic servers through an effort titled Project Texas, a plan that would also allow US tech firm Oracle to scrutinize TikTok’s source code and act as a third-party monitor.The company has promised to complete the effort by the end of the year, but some lawmakers questioned whether that is possible, with hundreds of millions of lines of source code requiring review in a relatively short amount of time.“I am concerned that what you’re proposing with Project Texas just doesn’t have the technical capability of providing us the assurances that we need,” the California Republican Jay Obernolte, a congressman and software engineer, said.Youth safety and mental health in the spotlightAnother frequent focus was the safety of TikTok’s young users, considering the app has exploded in popularity with this age group in recent years. A majority of teens in the US say they use TikTok – with 67% of people aged 13 to 17 saying they have used the app and 16% of that age group saying they use it “almost constantly”, according to the Pew Research Center.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionLawmakers cited reports that drug-related content has spread on the app, allowing teens to purchase dangerous substances easily online. Chew said such content violates TikTok policy and that they are removed when identified.“We take this very seriously,” Chew said. “This is an industry-wide challenge, and we’re investing as much as we can. We don’t think it represents the majority of the users’ experience on TikTok, but it does happen.”Others cited self-harm and eating disorder content, which have been spreading on the platform. TikTok is also facing lawsuits over deadly “challenges” that have gone viral on the app. Mental health concerns were underscored at the hearing by the appearance of Dean and Michelle Nasca, the parents of a teen who died by suicide after allegedly being served unsolicited self-harm content on TikTok.“We need you to do your part,” said congresswoman Kim Schrier, who is a pediatrician. “It could save this generation.”Uncertainty lingers over a possible banThe federal government has already barred TikTok on government devices, and the Biden administration has threatened a national ban. Thursday’s hearing left the future of the app in the US uncertain, as members of the committee appeared unwavering in their conviction that TikTok was a tool that could be exploited by the Chinese Communist party. Their conviction was bolstered by a report in the Wall Street Journal, released just hours before the hearing, indicating the Chinese government would not approve a sale of TikTok.Lawmakers outside of the committee are also unconvinced. US senators Mark Warner and John Thune said in a statement that all Chinese companies “are ultimately required to do the bidding of Chinese intelligence services, should they be called upon to do so” and that nothing Chew said in his testimony assuaged those concerns. Colorado senator Michael Bennet also reiterated calls for an all-out ban of TikTok.But the idea of a national ban still faces huge hurdles, both legally and in the court of public opinion. For one, previous attempts to ban TikTok under the Trump administration was blocked in court due in part to free speech concerns. TikTok also remains one of the fastest growing and most popular apps in the US and millions of its users are unlikely to want to give it up.A coalition of civil liberties, privacy and security groups including Fight for the Future, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union have written a letter opposing a ban, arguing that it would violate constitutional rights to freedom of expression. “A nationwide ban on TikTok would have serious ramifications for free expression in the digital sphere, infringing on Americans’ first amendment rights and setting a potent and worrying precedent in a time of increased censorship of internet users around the world,” the letter reads.Where the coalition and many members of the House committee agree is on the pressing need for federal data privacy regulation that protects consumer information and reins in all big tech platforms, including TikTok. The American Data Privacy Act – a bipartisan bill working its way through Washington – is one effort under way to address those concerns. More