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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 HawleyTrump DHS chief argues for swift confirmation of Biden pick amid Hawley hold Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Ethics complaint filed against Biggs, Cawthorn and Gosar over Capitol riot 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 CottonSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Senate panel advances Biden Pentagon nominee MORE (R-Ark.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Democrats torn on impeachment trial timing MORE (R-Iowa), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyCindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed 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 BuckProgressive groups warn against appointing tech insiders to key antitrust roles House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing Pompeo, Cruz and other Trump allies condemn Twitter's ban on president 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 TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report 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.