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TikTok banned in the US House – will the US ban TikTok nationally?
Despite efforts to calm spying fears, TikTok is seeing more blocks at the highest levels
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: The ban TikTok challenge
❌ TikTok is seeing bans on government devices throughout the country
🔎 Bans follow reports that ByteDance employees accessed US accounts’ data
📅 US government bans go back to 2019
🔮 Still unclear whether the app will see full national ban
US House of Representatives staff and officials will now have to stick to Instagram or whatever, after a message was disseminated by the government body’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) on Tuesday, demanding that the popular video app TikTok be deleted from all House-managed devices, Reuters reported Tuesday afternoon.
On December 22, 2022, ByteDance Ltd, the Beijing company that owns TikTok, reported that it had fired four of its employees after finding they’d accessed the accounts of several US users, including those of two journalists, in the course of seeking out the source of leaked internal documents that had been supplied to BuzzFeed and Financial Times, per The Washington Post.
The employees, two of which were in China, reportedly sought to use those journalists’ IP addresses to link them to ByteDance employees. An internal investigation caught it, and the company shared the information in an e-mail to employees, wherein it stressed the importance of customer data privacy.
The US is still suspicious of TikTok
That doesn’t seem to be enough to assuage the fears of government officials, including FBI director Christopher Wray, who is concerned, despite ByteDance’s moves to cordon off US user data from its Chinese-based servers, that the Chinese government could surveil US citizens via the app, or use it to spread propaganda, The New York Times reported.
The House of Representatives’ CAO’s message precedes a ban written into the recently-passed $1.66 trillion omnibus spending bill, which will ban the app from all phones, computers and tablets maintained by the executive branch after President Biden signs it into law. It also comes on the heels of similar moves by 19 states to scrub the app from all official state-managed devices.
Will the US ban TikTok for everyone?
None of this represents an outright national ban on the app. Discussion about a national prohibition on the social media app has been ongoing for years, and banning the app or convincing ByteDance to sell the US version became a major priority of Donald Trump’s waning presidency in 2020, following a round of bans by US military and national security agencies in late 2019 and early 2020.
Whether the app will see a ban for everyone in the US or not is unclear: although President Biden revoked a Trump executive order to ban the app, his administration has continued working with TikTok’s parent company to craft a deal that would allay US security concerns.
But the data security issues revealed in last week’s reports could be the catalyst the movement to ban the app needs to push it over the edge, barring any significant moves by the company to fully insulate US data from its China branch.