House of Representatives Passes Measure to Ban TikTok on Government-Issued Devices

July 21, 2020 Updated: July 21, 2020

The House of Representatives on July 20 voted on a measure to ban TikTok from all government-issued devices amid rising scrutiny of the security risks posed by the Chinese social media app.

Lawmakers voted 336-71 to pass the proposal initiated by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), part of a suite of bipartisan amendments to the annual defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The measure would bar federal employees, including congressional members and staff, from installing and using the app on government devices.

Buck, on the House floor, described the app as a “serious national security threat.” TikTok, hugely popular among young Americans, is owned by the Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance.

“The Chinese Communist Party is using TikTok to collect massive amounts of data from our American citizens and our government that could be used in a cyberattack against our republic,” Buck said.

The move comes as the Trump administration considers a complete ban on TikTok and other Chinese social media apps over security concerns. Critics say the app could be used for spying by the Chinese regime, citing Chinese law that compels companies to cooperate with security agencies when requested.

The company has denied such claims, saying the regime has never asked it to hand over data. It said that if it ever received such a request, the company would not comply. This, however, has not assuaged U.S. lawmakers and experts who say the firm wouldn’t be given a choice in the matter.

“TikTok is a Chinese-owned company and is required by law to share whatever information the Chinese Communist Party wants whenever it wants,” Buck said in an earlier statement.

The House is expected to pass the NDAA, which will preside over a budget of $741 billion, next week, while the Senate is slated to pass its version of the bill later this week. Any differences will then be ironed out in a joint conference committee.

A Senate committee is also set to vote on a bill that’s similar to the Buck’s NDAA measure on July 22. The bill, named “No TikTok on Government Devices Act,” was introduced by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in March.

Others have also taken action against the app. The Pentagon last year ordered military personnel to delete the app from government-issued phones. Wells Fargo recently followed suit, and the Democratic and Republican National Committees both warned staff against using TikTok.

Last month, India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps,  saying they posed threats to the country’s “security and sovereignty.”

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