Report: Republicans drafting ban on federal employee use of TikTok

December 4, 2022

Amid growing national security concerns, Republicans are in the process of drafting legislation that could prohibit the use of Chinese social media platform TikTok by employees of the federal government, as the Daily Caller News Foundation reports.

According to the outlet, a GOP aide involved in the matter said, “We're working on something right now,” and the provisions of a possible bill are said to be making their way through the Judiciary Committee that will soon be helmed by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Noem says no

The news of potential action at the federal level follows a decision by Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem late last month banning Tik Tok use by any state government or agency employee on state-issued devices, a measure that also prohibits visits to the platform's website.

The provisions put into effect by Noem's executive order also apply to all contractors engaged in business with the state, as the Daily Caller reported separately.

In issuing her order, Noem declared, “South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us.”

“The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people and they gather data off the devices that access the platform,” Noem added, referencing China's National Security Law, which compels private companies in the country to turn user data over to the government upon demand.

Noem indicated her belief that she has a “serious duty to protect the private data of South Dakota citizens,” urged other states to follow suit, and expressed support for broader congressional action on the matter.

Broader ban eyed

Reports of impending Republican action against Tiktok come in the wake of a formal call from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) for a nationwide ban on the platform, the rationale for which they explained in an op-ed published last month by the Washington Post.

The pair of legislators began by noting that “the United States is locked in a new Cold War with the Chinese Communist Party, one that senior military advisers warn could turn hot over Taiwan at any time.”

“Yet,” they warned, “millions of Americans increasingly rely on TikTok, a Chinese social media app exposed to the influence of the CCP, to consume the news, share content and communicate with friends.”

The op-ed went on to explain why the two lawmakers are so concerned about TikTok's increasing ubiquity in American life, writing that “the app can track cellphone users' locations and collect internet-browsing data – even when users are visiting unrelated websites.”

“With this app, Beijing could...collect sensitive national security information from U.S. government employees and develop profiles on millions of Americans to use for blackmail or espionage...,” Rubio and Gallagher added, also contending that “[e]ven more alarming...are the potential abuses of TikTok's algorithm,” which they say has already resulting in the censoring of references to “politically sensitive topics.”

Prohibition at last?

It is worth noting that former President Donald Trump engaged in efforts to ban TikTok during his time in the Oval Office, suggesting that the platform should be prohibited unless it was purchased by an American firm. Though Microsoft and Oracle made bids on the company, they were rejected, and President Joe Biden ultimately moved to undo his predecessor's actions on the matter.

Though neither Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the putative incoming speaker of the House, nor representatives from the Federal Communications Commission, nor the White House provided comments in response to the Daily Caller's report, it appears likely that the future of TikTok will take center stage in the weeks and months ahead, and where that leads, only time will tell.

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