The U.S. Senate approved legislation to ban TikTok from federal devices, and Utah’s senators are open to considering banning the Chinese-owned social media app in the United States altogether.
The No TikTok on Government Devices Act, sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., passed by unanimous consent amid concerns over the platform’s ability to safeguard U.S. user data from the Chinese government.
Hawley called TikTok a “Trojan horse” for the Communist Party.
“It’s a major security risk to the United States, and until it is forced to sever ties with China completely, it has no place on government devices,” he said in a statement Thursday. “States across the U.S. are banning TikTok on government devices. It’s time for Joe Biden and the Democrats to help do the same.”
Utah is among at least seven states that have banned TikTok from state-owned devices. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed an executive order Monday that prohibits state agencies or employees from downloading the app or visiting the TikTok website on state-issued phones, computers, laptops or tablets.
TikTok has more than 100 million users in the United States but is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Under Chinese national security law, the government can force companies to turn over data including intellectual property and proprietary information of users in the United States. ByteDance moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020.
A bill introduced in the House last year to ban TikTok has not advanced. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday it isn’t yet clear whether the chamber will take it up in light of its Senate passage, saying lawmakers were consulting with White House officials on its language, CNN reported.
TikTok condemned the Senate move.
“Once again, Sen. Hawley has moved forward with legislation to ban TikTok on government devices, a proposal which does nothing to advance U.S. national security interests,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement. “We hope that rather than continuing down that road, he will urge the administration to move forward on an agreement that would actually address his concerns.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a bill to stop TikTok from operating in the United States. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., filed companion legislation in the House.
The law would block and prohibit all transactions from any social media company in, or under the influence of, China, Russia and several other foreign countries.
“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok. This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day,” Rubio said in a statement. “There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good.”
Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee said Wednesday that he hasn’t read the bill yet but it’s worth looking at. He said he’s heard “disturbing” reports from members of the Intelligence Committee about some security threats that it can prevent.
“I hate TikTok for all sorts of reasons,” Lee said.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, applauded Cox’s executive order for Utah.
“TikTok, which is owned by a company headquartered in China, poses grave security concerns to Utah and the country. This is the right move and will better protect sensitive data from getting into hands of the CCP,” he tweeted.
Romney spokesperson Arielle Mueller said Thursday that the senator wants to hear more about Rubio’s proposal.
“Sen. Romney is inclined to support a ban, but would first want to learn more through hearings and testimony,” she said.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, thanked Cox in a tweet “for taking real action to confront this threat. I hope the rest of America follows Utah’s lead.”