A bill was passed late Wednesday by the U.S. Senate to prohibit federal employees using TikTok’s short video-sharing app on government-owned devices.
Before the bill can be sent to President Joe Biden, it must first be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Before the end of the current session, expected next week, the Senate bill must be passed by the House of Representatives.
This vote comes amid concerns that Beijing might use Chinese companies to spy on Americans.
After North Dakota, Iowa, and other states joined the growing list of U.S. States that have banned TikTok (owned by ByteDance) from their state-owned devices, this Senate action was taken amid fears that Chinese authorities could use data.
The Senate approved in August 2020, unanimously, legislation that would have banned TikTok’s use of government devices. Republican Senator Josh Hawley was the bill’s sponsor. He introduced it again in legislation in 2021.
TikTok is banned from devices owned by federal agencies, including Homeland Security, Defense, and State Departments. Hawley stated that TikTok poses a serious security threat to the United States and should be banned from government-owned devices.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum issued directives to Kim Reynolds, Iowa Governor, prohibiting the executive branch from installing the app on government-issued equipment. Similar actions were taken by around a dozen states in the United States, with Alabama and Utah among them.
TikTok stated that the concern is mainly fueled by misinformation. They are open to meeting with policymakers in order to talk about the company’s practices.
The company stated Wednesday that it was disappointed by the fact that many states have jumped on the political bandwagon and enacted policies that were based on falsehoods unfounded about TikTok, which will not do anything to improve the nation’s security.
Texas, Maryland, and South Dakota are just a few of the other states that have taken similar steps.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio unveiled Tuesday bipartisan legislation that would ban TikTok in America. This is a response to U.S. concerns about the app being used to spy on Americans, and to censure their content. Rubio is also a sponsor for Hawley’s TikTok ban on government devices.
Rubio’s office stated that the legislation would prohibit any transactions with social media companies located in China or Russia.
Last month’s hearing, Chris Wray from the FBI stated that TikTok operations in U.S. raise security concerns.
Trump tried to ban new TikTok users and other transactions from being downloaded in 2020. However, he lost several court battles.
In 2020, the powerful U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in America ordered ByteDance divest TikTok due to fears that U.S. users data might be transferred to China, but ByteDance did not do so.
Although CFIUS has been trying to negotiate a national security deal to secure the TikTok data, it is not clear that any agreement will be made before the end.