US Senate passes bill banning federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices

washington –

The U.S. Senate passed a bill by voice vote late Wednesday that would ban federal employees from using Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok on government-owned devices.

The bill still needs to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives before it goes to U.S. President Joe Biden for approval. The House of Representatives needs to pass the Senate bill before the end of the current congressional session, which is expected to end next week.

The vote is the latest move by U.S. lawmakers to crack down on Chinese companies amid national security concerns that Beijing could use them to spy on Americans.

The Senate move comes after North Dakota and Iowa this week joined a growing list of U.S. states banning ByteDance-owned TikTok from using state-owned equipment amid concerns that data could be passed on to the Chinese government. .

During the last Congress, the Senate unanimously passed legislation banning TikTok on government devices in August 2020. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Josh Hawley, reintroduced the legislation in 2021.

Many federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State, have banned the use of TikTok on government-owned devices. “TikTok is a major security risk to the United States, and it has no place on government equipment,” Hawley said previously.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued directives prohibiting executive branch agencies from downloading the app on any government-issued device. About a dozen U.S. states have taken similar action, including Alabama and Utah this week.

TikTok said those concerns were largely fueled by misinformation and was happy to meet with policymakers to discuss the company’s practices.

“We are disappointed that so many states are joining the political bandwagon to create policies based on baseless lies about TikTok that do nothing to advance America’s national security,” the company said Wednesday.

Other states taking similar action include Texas, Maryland and South Dakota.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Tuesday unveiled bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok entirely in the United States, ramping up pressure on ByteDance amid U.S. concerns that the app could be used to spy on Americans and condemn content. Rubio is also the sponsor of Hawley’s TikTok government device ban bill.

Rubio’s office said the legislation would block all transactions by any social media company within or influenced by China and Russia.

At a hearing last month, FBI Director Chris Wray said TikTok’s operations in the United States raised national security concerns.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump lost a series of court battles over the measure in an attempt to prevent new users from downloading TikTok and ban other transactions that would have effectively prevented the apps from being used in the United States.

The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a powerful national security agency, ordered ByteDance to spin off TikTok in 2020 over concerns that U.S. user data could be passed on to the Chinese government, though ByteDance has yet to do so.

CFIUS and TikTok have been negotiating for months to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of TikTok’s more than 100 million users, but it does not appear that any agreement will be reached before the end of the year.

Reporting by David Shepherdson; Editing by Leslie Adler, Josie Kao and Kenneth Maxwell

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