Cybersecurity

Republican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) led a group of Senate Republicans on Thursday in reintroducing legislation to ban the use of social media app TikTok on federal government devices, citing potential national security concerns. 

The No TikTok on Government Devices Act would ban all federal employees from using the popular app on government devices. The legislation was previously introduced in 2020, and was unanimously passed by the Senate in August, but the bill never received a vote in the House.  

"TikTok is a Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party that has no place on government devices-or any American devices, for that matter," Hawley said in a statement Thursday. "My bill is a straightforward plan to protect American government data from a hostile foreign power, which, less than a year ago, passed the Senate unanimously." 

"TikTok has repeatedly proven itself to be a malicious actor but Joe Biden and Big Tech refuse to take the threat of Chinese espionage seriously. It's time for Congress to act," he added. 

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are co-sponsors of the legislation.  

The bill was also reintroduced in the House by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who said in a separate statement that the legislation "is in the best interest of our national security."

"Chinese-owned apps are required to report user data to the Chinese Communist Party, that is why we cannot trust TikTok with the sensitive data that exists on U.S. government devices," Buck said. "It is well past time to acknowledge the serious cybersecurity threat that TikTok poses and enact a federal government-wide ban on the Chinese app."

While the federal government as a whole has not taken the step to ban TikTok, agencies including the Defense and Homeland Security departments, along with the Transportation Security Administration, have already banned employees from using the app on their federal devices. 

TikTok came under close scrutiny during the Trump administration, with former President Trump issuing an executive order last year requiring Chinese company ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to sell the app or have it banned from use in the United States. 

The effort to ban TikTok stalled out in the last months of the Trump administration following a contentious election, with the deadline for sale of TikTok passing with no action taken, leaving the Biden administration to set its own rules on the app.  

TikTok has repeatedly pushed back against concerns that it poses a threat due to ByteDance's alleged connections to the Chinese government and data security concerns, with the company taking steps to increase its security and the privacy of data.  

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said last week that Jake Sullivan, President Biden's national security adviser, was leading a review to determine how the Biden administration would approach TikTok and other Chinese tech companies.

While Raimondo did not directly comment on if the administration would force ByteDance to sell TikTok, she stressed that "what we do on offense is more important than what we do on defense" and the need to "level the playing field" with China. 

Outbrain