In the culmination of a series of efforts launched in recent years to address growing national security concerns, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed legislation designed to ban the use of Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on federal government-owned phones and devices, as The Hill reports.
Referred to as the "No TikTok on Government Devices Act," the measure was approved by a unanimous vote with zero objections, underscoring the seriousness with which the threat of Chinese surveillance is being taken in D.C.
The measure is written so as to ban the TikTok app or any successor incarnations or ancillary services provided by Chinese-controlled ByteDance Limited or any of its subsidiaries, as Breitbart noted.
Exceptions included in the bill's broad prohibition include official use in connection with "law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, and security researchers," provided the relevant agencies "develop and document risk mitigation actions for such use."
Introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the measure was described as a necessary follow-up to steps taken to date by the State Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Transportation Safety Administration to prevent the use of the app on government-issued devices.
Speaking about the ban, Hawley explained, "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."
"States across the U.S. are banning TikTok on government devices. It's time for Joe Biden and the Democrats to help to the same," Hawley added.
Though Hawley initially introduced legislation of this type in the prior Congress, and it was indeed passed back in 2020, he reintroduced the measure in April of 2021, and despite its passage in the Senate, the ban still requires passage in the House as well as the signature of President Joe Biden in order to become law.
As Breitbart noted, a companion bill in the House was introduced in 2021 by Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) but cannot proceed to a floor vote until it receives approval from the House Oversight Committee, something which has yet to occur.
Not surprisingly, representatives of TikTok derided the bill's passage, with a company spokesperson stating, "Once again, Sen. Hawley has moved forward with legislation to ban TikTok on government devices, a proposal which does nothing to advance U.S. national security interests."
"We hope that rather than continuing down that road, he will urge the Administration to move forward on an agreement that would actually address his concerns," the statement added.
Hawley is not alone among his Senate colleagues in hoping to rein in the dangers posed by TikTok, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently introducing bipartisan legislation aimed at banning Tiktok from U.S. operation altogether.
"The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok," Rubio said when laying out the rationale for what he calls the "ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act."
"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," Rubio declared. Whether sufficient numbers of his legislative colleagues – and the president – will arrive at the same conclusion and take aggressive action against what the senator labeled "digital fentanyl that's addicting Americans" and funneling strategically valuable data to China, only time will tell.