A Republican lawmaker is requesting President Biden take action to eliminate TikTok, an app critics allege gives the Chinese government private access to tens of millions of Americans.
Hours after Biden ordered the United States Air Force to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., took to Twitter with a simple instruction: “Now blow up TikTok.”
Biden’s decision to shoot down the balloon came a week after it was first detected over Alaska on Jan. 25 and days after it was later reported over Montana, Missouri, and the Carolinas.
The social media app has been the point of contention as critics say the Chinese government’s control over ByteDance, the company that developed TikTok, allow it to control what teens and others who have the app see. This control can result in offering propaganda, influencing decisions and elections, or simply distracting the populous, critics say.
The Air Force ultimately shot down the balloon Saturday afternoon as it hovered over the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina.
China’s government released a blistering statement after the United States shot down a suspected spy balloon that floated from Montana to the Carolinas, calling the action an “attack” that was “totally unexpected.”
“China strongly disapproves of and protests against the U.S. attack on a civilian unmanned airship by force,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The Foreign Ministry also said it repeatedly informed the U.S. that the suspected spy balloon was “civilian” and posed no risk, saying it mostly collected weather data.
Beijing also asked the U.S. government to respond in a “calm, professional and restrained manner” just days before the U.S. Air Force shot it down off the coast of South Carolina.
“The Chinese side has, after verification, repeatedly informed the U.S. side of the civilian nature of the airship and conveyed that its entry into the U.S. due to force majeure was totally unexpected,” the ministry said. “The Chinese side has clearly asked the U.S. side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner.”
The White House said on Friday Biden would not shoot down the balloon, despite calls from lawmakers and others, as it “does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”
China’s foreign ministry said the decision to shoot it down was a “clear overreaction.”
“Under such circumstances, the U.S. use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice,” the statement read. “China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the company concerned, and reserves the right to make further responses if necessary.”
Republican lawmakers have also criticized Biden’s handling of the decision, with many arguing he had plenty of opportunities to shoot down the balloon before it made its way over the continental U.S.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said: “Everything about the Biden admin’s response to the Chinese spy balloon reeks of indecision and weakness. They can’t decide whether to shoot it down or not.”
Ahead of the suspect spy balloon drama, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled to visit China and would have been the most senior official to do so since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of it, the visit was canceled indefinitely.
“They can’t decide whether to go to China or not,” Cruz added.
President Biden claims he gave the order to shoot down the balloon on Wednesday, but that military officials waited until Saturday to do so.
“I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible,” Biden told reporters on Saturday.
He added: “I told them to shoot it down on Wednesday. They said to me let’s wait for the safest place to do it.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed the order was given to the military on Wednesday.
“On Wednesday, President Biden gave his authorization to take down the surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path,” Lloyd said.
The balloon was shot down on Saturday afternoon, after it traveled over several key locations in the U.S., including military bases containing nuclear missiles.
Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.