Republicans renew bill to ban TikTok on government devices

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Republicans concerned with TikTok over the popular video-sharing application’s connections to China reintroduced legislation Thursday that would prohibit it from being installed on government devices.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, the lead sponsor of the No TikTok on Government Devices Act proposed in the last Congress, is pushing once more to make the bill a reality after his previous effort fell short.

The bill, if signed into law, would essentially prohibit downloading or using TikTok and other apps and services made by Chinese developer ByteDance Limited on any device issued by the U.S. government.

Companies in the People’s Republic of China are required by law to share data with authorities when asked, effectively allowing its government to access information TikTok collects on hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

Mr. Hawley and his co-sponsors — Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Florida Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio — assert the app then poses risks that require it be reined in for the sake of national security.

“TikTok is a Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party that has no place on government devices–or any American devices, for that matter,” Mr. Hawley asserted in a statement announcing his new bill.

“There is absolutely no reason why this application, which Beijing can use to advance its malign foreign policy initiatives, should be utilized on federal devices,” said Mr. Rubio.

TikTok, in its currently form, “is not safe,” Mr. Rubio added.

ByteDance and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for the app previously told The Washington Times it thought the concerns raised by Mr. Hawley were “unfounded.”

Several federal agencies had already passed their own policies banning TikTok by the time Mr. Hawley first tried last March to pass a bill prohibiting the app on practically all government devices.

But while that measure easily cleared the Republican-controlled Senate last Congress, a companion bill stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats had and continue to hold power.

Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican who offered the House bill last Congress, plans to propose a companion bill soon to accompany Mr. Hawley’s latest effort, the senator’s office said in a statement.

Former President Trump attempted last August to ban TikTok entirely unless BitDance agreed to sell the app to a U.S. company, but that bid was ultimately blocked in federal court.

Prior to that court ruling, the Trump administration’s Commerce Department claimed ByteDance‘s compliance with Chinese law made it a “reliable, useful and far reaching ear and mouthpiece” for Beijing.

TikTok boasted of having 100 million users in the U.S. when the Trump administration took action last August. It has been downloaded over two billion times, according to the Sensor Tower data firm.

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