A US Senate committee overseeing homeland security unanimously approved a proposal on Wednesday to ban the use of TikTok App, the Chinese-owned short video app, on government-issued devices.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to support the legislation that was first introduced in March by Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri.
The No TikTok on Government Devices Act would prohibit federal employees, officers, lawmakers and contractors from downloading or using TikTok and all other apps developed by its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance on any device issued by the US government or government corporation.
The legislation will now move to the Senate floor for a vote by the full chamber. If passed, it will be conciliated with a version that has already passed the House of Representatives, 336-71, as an amendment to the US$741 billion National Defence Authorisation Act, the annual defence budget legislation.
If the bill passes both chambers, it is likely to become law; senior Trump administration officials have recently ramped up efforts to highlight the threat the video app may pose.
This month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US was “certainly” exploring a ban, citing alleged concerns that the app had shared user data with the Chinese government in Beijing.
People should use TikTok, Pompeo said, “only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”.
Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign ran Facebook ads warning about TikTok.
TikTok has become a user sensation around the world, including among teenagers and young adults in the US. About 60 per cent of its 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said last year.
The US has been troubled by a Chinese law introduced in 2017 that said Chinese companies have an obligation to support and cooperate in the country’s national intelligence work.
Pompeo says US considering ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps, praises Google, Facebook, Twitter
The same law was cited when the administration moved to bar government agencies from buying devices or systems from Chinese firms including Huawei Technologies and ZTE.
A TikTok spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. But Bytedance has repeatedly denied accusations that TikTok harvests data for the Chinese government and says it stores Americans’ data in the US and Singapore, not in China.
During the introduction of his bill Hawley called TikTok “a major security risk” that had “no place on government devices”.
The prohibition “is a necessary step to protect the security of the United States and the data security of all Americans”, Hawley said.
The US Departments of Defence, State, and Homeland Security had already prohibited employees from downloading the TikTok app on their government-issued devices, Hawley said in March.
The departments “even advised them to have their children uninstall it from their personal devices”, Hawley noted.
Originally published at South china morning post