Technology

Senate votes to ban TikTok use on government devices

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation that would ban the use of TikTok on government phones and devices as part of the push to combat security concerns related to the Chinese-owned social media company. 

The “No TikTok on Government Devices Act,” introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), was passed via unanimous consent late Wednesday, meaning that no member objected to the bill. The proposal would “prohibit certain individuals from downloading or using TikTok on any device issued by the United States or a government corporation.”

The move comes as state governments, especially those led by Republicans, have taken steps to limit the use of the app on state-owned devices. Thirteen states overall have taken action against TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-owned entity. Eleven of those actions have taken place since the beginning of the month. 

“TikTok is a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a major security risk to the United States, and until it is forced to sever ties with China completely, it has no place on government devices,” Hawley said in a statement. “States across the U.S. are banning TikTok on government devices. It’s time for Joe Biden and the Democrats to help do the same.”

The bill would still need to be passed by the House and signed by President Biden to become law. 

Bills aiming to ban TikTok, including an identical one sponsored by Hawley, have passed the Senate and House in previous years but none has been signed into law.

“Once again, Sen. Hawley has moved forward with legislation to ban TikTok on government devices, a proposal which does nothing to advance U.S. national security interests. We hope that rather than continuing down that road, he will urge the Administration to move forward on an agreement that would actually address his concerns,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in a memo on Tuesday that data collected by TikTok could be subject to Chinese laws and allow it to be shared with the Chinese Communist Party. A group of 15 Republican state attorneys general also called on Apple and Google this week to increase the age rating for the app.

Hawley’s effort is by no means the lone bill aimed at limiting TikTok’s use. A bill authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) seeks to ban the app from operating within the U.S. due to national security concerns. 

“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” Rubio said in a statement about the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act. “This isn’t about creative videos—this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day.”

Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) have authored a companion bill in the House. 

Updated Thursday, Dec. 15 at 9:13 a.m.

Tags Chinese Communist Party Joe Biden Josh Hawley Josh Hawley Kay Ivey Marco Rubio Marco Rubio Tik-Tok Tik-Tok ban

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