WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The Senate has passed a bill prohibiting federal employees from using Chinese-owned TikTok on government devices.
- The move was made over national security concerns about potential user data leaks to the Chinese government.
- Federal agencies also warned that the app could be used for spying or spreading propaganda.
The Senate has passed a bill banning Chinese-owned app TikTok on government-owned devices.
The U.S. government has recently been cracking down on Chinese companies over national security concerns.
There have been several attempts to block TikTok in the U.S. in 2020, over concerns about user data being passed to the Chinese government. There were also concerns that the app could be used to spy on Americans, censure content, or spread communist propaganda.
President Donald Trump at the time moved to block the use of TikTok but lost several court battles over the measure.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) ordered TikTok owner ByteDance to divest ownership of the platform, but the company has not done so.
In August 2020, the Senate also unanimously passed legislation to ban TikTok from government devices. Bill sponsor Sen. Josh Hawley (R) reintroduced the legislation in 2021.
Hawley previously stated, “TikTok is a major security risk to the United States, and it has no place on government devices.”
The app has already been barred from government-owned devices in several federal agencies such as the Defense, Homeland Security, and State departments. About a dozen states, including Alabama and Utah, have also implemented similar actions.
Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa also issued directives prohibiting the app on any government-issued equipment in executive branch agencies. Similar actions are to be introduced in Maryland, South Dakota, and Texas.
The bill, called “No TikTok on Government Devices Act,” still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives before the current congressional session ends, then passed to President Joe Biden for his signature of approval.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R), who co-sponsored Hawley’s bill, also introduced bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok altogether.
Rubio aims to block all transactions from any social media companies under the influence of China and Russia.
Earlier this month, FBI Director Chris Wray warned about the use of platforms that “are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States.”
TikTok, meanwhile, dismissed the concerns to be largely misinformed. It stated on Wednesday, “We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.”
CFIUS has been in talks with the company for months to reach an agreement to protect user data, but it is not expected to reach a deal before the year ends.
TikTok has over 100 million users in the U.S.