Congress attempts to ban TikTok on government devices as part of $1.7 trillion spending bill

After obtaining Senate approval last week, the No TikTok on Government Devices Act could become law thanks to the $1.7 trillion spending bill federal lawmakers unveiled early Tuesday morning. In addition to allocating more funding for Ukraine and earmarking $40 billion for natural disaster recovery efforts across the US, the sprawling 4,155-page bill includes provisions that would prohibit the use of TikTok on government-owned phones and other devices.

While some Republican lawmakers are pushing for a country-wide ban on TikTok, the spending bill stops short of prohibiting all government use of TikTok. If passed, the legislation would order the General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget to create guidelines for staff at executive agencies to remove TikTok from government-owned devices by mid-February. The draft legislation allows congressional staff and elected officials to continue using the app. It also carves out some exceptions for law enforcement agents and officials.

“We’re disappointed that Congress has moved to ban TikTok on government devices — a political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests — rather than discourage the Administration to conclude its national security review,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter told Engadget.

“The agreement under review by [The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] will meaningfully address any security concerns that have been raised at both the federal and state level. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies — plans that we are well underway in implementing — to further secure our platform in the United States, and we will continue to brief lawmakers on them.”

The proposed ban comes after at least 11 states, including Georgia and South Dakota, prohibited TikTok on government-owned devices. Political concerns over TikTok hit a high earlier this month after FBI Director Chris Wray said China could use the app to collect user data. TikTok has tried to address those concerns. As of June, the app began routing all domestic traffic through Oracle servers in the US. At the same time, TikTok and parent company ByteDance pledged to delete US user data from their own data servers in the US and Singapore.

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