US Senate approves bill to ban TikTok on government devices

The US House will still have vote on it before it can become a law.

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The No TikTok on Government Devices Act that was introduced by Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) has just crossed a major milestone. Members of the US Senate have unanimously voted to approve the bill, which will ban the TikTok app on all government-owned phones and other devices. Its approval emphasizes authorities' concerns that the app's China-based parent company ByteDance could share information gathered from US users with the Chinese government. Just last month, FBI Director Chris Wray warned lawmakers that the Chinese government could use TikTok to launch "influence operations" or to "technically compromise" millions of devices.

While the bill aims to prohibit the installation of TikTok on government devices, it carves out exceptions for "law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, and security researchers," according to Bloomberg. Hawley called the app a "Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party" and said it has no place on government devices until it completely cuts ties with China. Meanwhile, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter told Bloomberg that Hawley "has moved forward with... a proposal which does nothing to advance US national security interests." Oberwetter added: "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."

Just a few days ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) filed a separate bill that aims to ban TikTok in the US completely. Unlike Hawley's bill, theirs also targets all social media companies in or influenced by China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. Rubio criticized the administration for having "yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok."

Individual states, including Maryland and South Dakota, have already prohibited the installation of TikTok on government devices. As for Hawley's bill, the US House will still have to approve it before it can become a law.