Pelosi signals TikTok may soon be banned on government devices

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The TikTok logo is seen on a cell phone, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer/AP

Pelosi signals TikTok may soon be banned on government devices

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports adding legislation that would ban TikTok on government-owned devices to a must-pass government funding bill next week, significantly boosting the chances of the provision becoming law following its passage in the Senate earlier this week.

A spokesman for the House speaker confirmed that she supports adding the provision to the major appropriations bill the House of Representatives will consider next week. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy also supports the measure.

The Senate approved the bill, written by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), on Wednesday night by unanimous consent. The bill is the latest step by lawmakers to clamp down on the Chinese-owned short-form video app that has over a billion users across the world. Many officials and experts worry TikTok, a subsidiary of Chinese company ByteDance, could pose a threat to U.S. national security by compromising users’ data, handing over critical information to the Chinese government.

“TikTok is a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a major security risk to the United States, and until it is forced to sever ties with China completely, it has no place on government devices,” Hawley said in a statement. “States across the U.S. are banning TikTok on government devices. It’s time for Joe Biden and the Democrats to help do the same.”

WITH UNANIMOUS SENATE VOTE BANNING TIKTOK FROM GOVERNMENT DEVICES, THE BATTLE AGAINST THE CHINESE-OWNED VIDEO SHARING APP ESCALATES

The push to ban TikTok on government devices at the federal level comes as about a dozen states have already done the same. New Hampshire, Wyoming, Georgia, Oklahoma, Maryland, Alabama, South Dakota, Utah, South Carolina, Texas, and Iowa issued bans on the app from some state government devices in recent weeks, while Nebraska blocked the application on government devices in August 2020. Virginia joined that list on Friday, with an executive order by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and Indiana sued the company last week, saying the app exposes children to harmful content.

HERE ARE ALL THE STATES TAKING ACTION TO BAN TIKTOK ON GOVERNMENT DEVICES

The company and the U.S. government have been working toward negotiating a deal that would protect the data of U.S. TikTok users. There have been years of talks between the company and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, but the negotiations have reportedly faced delays.

TikTok has said national security concerns are fueled by misinformation. Last September, COO Vanessa Pappas testified before Congress that the company’s Chinese employees were unable to access U.S. data and that information would be given to the Chinese government.

In response to pushback, the company said last week it would restructure its U.S.-focused content moderation, policy, and legal teams under a special group within the company that’s led by U.S.-based employees and that is cut off from others focused on policy across the world.

“It is troubling that rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review of Tiktok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically-motivated [bill] that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States,” Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said in a statement provided to the Washington Examiner. “We will continue to brief members of Congress on the plans that 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.”

The White House, as well as the Pentagon, State, and Homeland Security departments, already ban the app from government-owned devices. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre declined to take a position on the TikTok legislation.

“Just more broadly, there are a range of tech applications and products that are not allowed to be used [at] the White House and other federal government work equipment for security reasons,” she said at a White House press briefing on Thursday. “We’re going to let Congress move forward with their process.”

The bill’s passage in the Senate comes as other lawmakers are attempting to go a step further to restrict the app. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bipartisan bill to ban the app completely in the U.S.

“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day. We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections.”

Several senators, including Mark Warner (D-VA), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence panel, and Hawley, have not signed on to Rubio’s effort. According to CNN, Hawley said he’d be satisfied if the U.S. government and TikTok reached an agreement to secure U.S. users’ data on Thursday. “But if they don’t do that … then I think we’re going to have to look at more stringent measures,” Hawley said.

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Former President Donald Trump issued a similar executive order in July 2020 in an attempt to ban the app from operating in the U.S., but it was halted by a judge and then reversed by President Joe Biden a year later.

If the House approves the TikTok provision in its version of the appropriations bill, the Senate would have to add it to its version of the spending bill before it could be sent to Biden for his signature.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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