House votes to ban TikTok on federal devices

The House on Monday voted to bar federal employees from downloading the video-sharing app TikTok on government-issued devices as part of a $741 billion defense policy bill.

The vote: Lawmakers voted 336-71 to pass the proposal, offered by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), as part of a package of bipartisan amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. The prohibition would extend to members of Congress and congressional staff.

The background: National security concerns about TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, have picked up steam amid fears that U.S. users’ personal information could fall into the hands of government officials in Beijing. TikTok has said it has never handed over user data to the Chinese government, and that it would not do so if asked. But the assurances have done little to assuage its critics on Capitol Hill and across Washington, who are now pushing for more sweeping action against the platform.

Buck called TikTok a “serious national security threat” during a floor speech Monday before the vote and said the data the company collects from U.S. consumers “could be used in a cyberattack against our republic” if shared with Chinese government officials.

What’s next: The House is expected to pass its version of the NDAA on Tuesday. The Senate will probably pass its bill later this week. The two chambers will then hammer out their differences in a joint conference committee.

Elsewhere in Washington: Calls to crack down on the social network are gaining momentum. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday is slated to consider legislation from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), S. 3455 (116), that mirrors the Buck-led NDAA amendment to ban TikTok use on federal devices. With passage in the House and a committee vote set for the Senate, the prohibition could soon become law in the U.S.

Top officials in the Trump administration, meanwhile, have said they’re considering a broader ban on TikTok and other Chinese-linked apps, and that action may be imminent. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first revealed those discussions, telling Fox News: “We’re certainly looking at it.” And White House chief of staff Mark Meadows recently said the administration is weighing action against the app, adding that the move is expected to drop within “weeks, not months.”


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