Senate passes legislation to ban TikTok on federal devices

Senate passes legislation to ban TikTok on federal devices
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The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation to ban the use of the social media app TikTok on federal devices, weeks after the House approved a similar measure.

The legislation, sponsored primarily by Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHawley warns Schumer to steer clear of Catholic-based criticisms of Barrett Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Trump faces tricky choice on Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), would ban the app’s use on all federal government devices, following bans on the app already put in place by the Army and the Transportation Security Administration due to potential security threats. 

In light of all we know, it is unthinkable to me that we should continue to permit federal employees, those workers entrusted with sensitive government data, to access this app on their work phones and computers,” Hawley said in a statement on Thursday. “I’m encouraged by the bipartisan support we have seen in this body to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and that includes, by the way, holding accountable those corporations who would just do China’s bidding.”

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He added that, “if I have anything to say about it, we won’t be stopping here.”

Other Senate sponsors of the bill included Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGOP senators confident Trump pick to be confirmed by November Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump stokes fears over November election outcome MORE (R-Ark.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOn The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami Tillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE (R-Iowa), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySenate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami MORE (R-Ariz.).

The bill was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate weeks after the House included a companion measure, sponsored by Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckGOP lawmaker says China could use TikTok consumer data against US in a conflict Republicans call for Judiciary hearing into unrest in cities run by Democrats Hillicon Valley: Facebook bans ads from pro-Trump PAC | Uber reports big drop in revenue | US offers M reward for election interference info MORE (R-Colo.) banning TikTok on federal devices in the House-passed version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

It is unclear if the bill will need to undergo conference between the House and Senate before being sent to President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE for signature.

The measure was approved by the Senate almost a week after President Trump floated the idea of banning the popular app in the country due to its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance and potential national security risks stemming from the company's possible relationship with the Chinese government. 

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Microsoft later confirmed that it was in talks to buy the U.S. stake of the company, with Trump saying TikTok had until Sept. 15 to finalize the deal with Microsoft, or else TikTok would be “out of business in the United States.”

TikTok has consistently pushed back against concerns it could pose a national security risk, vowing to never disclose sensitive data to China, along with moving all American data to the U.S. 

A spokesperson for TikTok highlighted the company’s efforts to move operations into the United States in response to the Senate’s approval of the bill Thursday. 

"TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it's their home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection, which we recognize is not what federal government devices are for,” the spokesperson said. “We've hired nearly 1,000 people to our US team this year alone, and we're proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US.”

“We have no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protects our users' privacy,” the spokesperson added.