Congress Moves to Ban Chinese Spyware App TikTok on Government Devices

FILE PHOTO: A TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
December 20, 2022

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters)—U.S. lawmakers early Tuesday included a proposal to bar federal government employees from using Chinese app TikTok on government-owned devices in a key spending bill.

The Senate last week voted on a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Josh Hawley to bar federal employees from using the ByteDance-owned short video app on government-owned devices. It was the latest action by U.S. lawmakers to crack down on Chinese companies amid national security fears.

The ban is in a massive omnibus measure to fund U.S. government operations that is expected to be voted on this week. The bill gives the White House Office of Management and Budget 60 days "to develop standards and guidelines for executive agencies requiring the removal" of TikTok from federal devices.

Reuters reported the proposed ban's expected inclusion in the legislation earlier.

The proposal last week won the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

TikTok has said the concerns are largely fueled by misinformation. The legislation would not impact the more than 100 million Americans who use TikTok on private or company-owned devices.

Many federal agencies, including the White House and the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments, already ban TikTok from government-owned devices.

Also Monday, state agencies in Louisiana and West Virginia became the latest to ban the use of TikTok on government devices over concern that China could use it to track Americans and censor content.

Some 19 of the 50 U.S. states have now at least partially blocked access on government computers to TikTok. Most of the restrictions came within the past two weeks.

In 2020, Republican then-President Donald Trump attempted to block new users from downloading TikTok and to ban other transactions that would have effectively blocked the app's use in the United States but lost a series of court battles.

The U.S. government Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a national security body, has for months sought to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of U.S. TikTok users, but it appears no deal will be reached before year's end.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Stephen Coates & Shri Navaratnam)