White House Gives Agencies 30 Days to Impose a TikTok Ban

U.S. government agencies have 30 days to remove the TikTok app from federal devices and systems, the White House said Monday. A memo from Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young advised that in the interest of national security, the China-owned app must be purged from phones and Internet traffic firewalled from reaching it. The government ban was ordered by Congress in December, and follows similar moves in Canada, Taiwan, the EU, and many U.S. states. While the policy affects only a small portion of U.S. TikTok users, it fuels the controversy and emboldens those calling for an outright ban on the ByteDance-owned video app.

U.S. lawmakers have been very vocal in their desire to crack down on TikTok over fears that ByteDance is obligated to fulfill demands made by China’s Communist Party leadership. Many fear that the Chinese government could demand TikTok data and use the app to spy on Americans.

Federal chief information security officer Chris DeRusha said in Reuters that “this guidance is part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy.”

Government agencies including the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense had banned the app on government devices prior to the White House order. However, legislation introduced Friday, and fast-tracked by the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, “would make it easier to ban TikTok from the United States and crack down on other China-related economic activity,” reports CNN.

HR 1153 — the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act (DATA Act) — “would empower the Biden administration to impose a nationwide TikTok ban under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).”

“My bill empowers the administration to ban TikTok or any software applications that threaten U.S. national security,” representative Mike McCaul said in Reuters, saying those with TikTok downloaded on their devices have given the Chinese Communist Party “a backdoor to all their personal information,” calling TikTok “a spy balloon into your phone.”

The government is making exceptions for law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, and security research, Young said in the guidance memorandum, noting that managers must approve each exception, and blanket waivers are not allowed for entire agencies.

CNN quoted TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter calling the ban “little more than political theater.”

While U.S. officials have expressed concern that the Chinese government might pressure ByteDance to share U.S. data with the Chinese government for use in intelligence gathering or disinformation campaigns, “independent security experts have said that type of access is a possibility, though there has been no reported incident of such access to date.”

New TikTok Ban Bill Passes Key House Committee on a Party-Line Vote, CNBC, 3/1/23
TikTok Ban Debated by House Lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal, 2/28/23
ACLU Strongly Opposes House Bill that Would Ban TikTok, ACLU, 2/27/23
EU Bans Staff from Using TikTok Over Cybersecurity Concerns, Politico, 2/28/23

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