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Congress Cracks Down on TikTok After Senate Passes Ban from Government Devices

Photo by Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Following the Senate’s passage of legislation banning TikTok from government devices on Wednesday in an effort to minimize security risks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has since supported adding the provision to a government funding bill. 


Georgia and New Hampshire are the latest states to ban the use of TikTok on state devices, joining Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Texas. The state of Nebraska had already enacted a ban in 2020. 


Government officials in those states cite concerns for widespread security risks as TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, are suspected of having close ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In addition to cybersecurity, the app has also been proven to be damaging to the youth, particularly young girls. 


The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) published a report on Wednesday exposing data that shows it can take less than three minutes after signing up for a TikTok account to see content related to suicide and about five more minutes to find a community promoting eating disorder content.

Imran Ahmed, CEO of the CCDH, explains, “The results are every parent's nightmare: young people’s feeds are bombarded with harmful, harrowing content that can have a significant cumulative impact on their understanding of the world around them, and their physical and mental health. "

Representatives from TikTok and ByteDance have repeatedly downplayed their relationship with China’s communist government and denied any wrongdoing with user data collection. 


“TikTok is digital fentanyl that’s poisoning Americans, collecting troves of their data, and censoring their news. It’s also an increasingly powerful media company that’s owned by ByteDance, which ultimately reports to the Chinese Communist Party – America’s foremost adversary,” said Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin


Gallagher implored urgency in banning the app and said TikTok’s ability to operate in the United States would be like “allowing the U.S.S.R. to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast networks during the Cold War.”


In 2021, Jim Lewis, senior vice president and director, strategic technologies program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, spoke to CNBC about the possibility of TikTok’s prevalence in the US being a national security risk.


“ByteDance is a Chinese company, and they’re subject to Chinese national law, which says that whenever the government asks for the data a company is holding for whatever reason, the company must turn it over. They have no right to appeal,” said Lewis.


Former-President Donald Trump tried to block new downloads and use of the app in 2020, but lost a series of legal battles over the issue. Congress is set to take up the government funding bill with the TikTok legislation next week. 


Despite bipartisan concerns for information security and support for the provision, the Biden administration’s stance is unclear. 


White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say whether Biden would support the TikTok legislation should it reach his desk during a press briefing on Thursday. "We're going to let Congress move forward with their process," she said.


The US military, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have restricted the app from government-owned devices, but Biden’s signature on the bill will apply to all federal employees.

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