US Senate votes to ban TikTok app on government-owned phones

(Bloomberg) – The US Senate has voted to ban popular video-sharing app TikTok from all phones and other government-issued devices as the Biden administration considers restrictions on the Chinese-owned platform.

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The measure, which was approved unanimously, is expected to pass the US House before Congress leaves for the year.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, underscores concerns that TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance Ltd., could share information about US users with Chinese authorities. The Senate also passed the ban in the last Congress.

“TikTok is a Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party. This is a major security risk to the United States, and until they are forced to completely sever ties with China, it has no place on government devices,” Hawley said in a statement.

The legislation provides exceptions for “law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, and security researchers,” in certain circumstances, according to the text of the bill.

Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control the data or software of millions of users, and its recommendation algorithm – which determines which videos users will then see – “could be used for influence operations if desired.

“Under Chinese law, Chinese companies are required to basically – and I’m going to make a shortcut here – to do basically whatever the Chinese government wants them to do in terms of sharing information or serving as a tool to the Chinese government,” Wray told lawmakers. .

After the vote, Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, said in a statement: “Once again, Senator Hawley has moved forward with legislation to ban TikTok on government devices, a proposal that does nothing to advance the national security interests of the United States.

“We hope that instead of continuing down this path, he will urge the administration to move forward on a deal that would actually address his concerns,” Oberwetter added.

The Biden administration has tried to strike a deal with TikTok that would allow the video-sharing site to continue operating in the United States by adopting additional safeguards over how US user data is stored, according to people familiar with. chats who asked not to be identified discussing a matter of national security.

This effort failed.

A final deal has been stalled at the Justice Department, and questions remain about whether a deal could protect all US users’ data from misuse. A plan is expected to build on a deal announced by TikTok in June under which U.S. user traffic is routed through servers managed by Oracle Corp.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

A Trump administration plan to force ByteDance to sell stakes in the app to US companies has failed.

–With assistance from Daniel Flatley, Alex Barinka and Jennifer Jacobs.

(Updates with Hawley’s quote, White House requested comment, starting in fourth paragraph.)

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