On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced a 30-day deadline for all United States federal government agencies to wipe the social media app TikTok off all government devices, following the increased scrutiny in Washington over security concerns.
According to reports, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the guidance this week, calling it a “critical step forward in addressing the risks presented by the app to sensitive government data.”
Agencies such as the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and the State Department have restricted the app. Members of the Biden White House are also not allowed to use TikTok on their devices.
In a statement to reporters, Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer, said that the Biden-Harris administration has “invested heavily in defending our nation’s digital infrastructure and curbing foreign adversaries’ access to Americans’ data.”
This guidance is part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy, said DeRusha.
In December of last year, Congress passed the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” as part of a government funding package, allowing for TikTok use in specific cases like national security, law enforcement, and research.
Responding to the White House’s announcement, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said that the ban of the social media app on federal devices passed last December “without any deliberation, and unfortunately, that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater,” said Oberwetter.
With the House of Representatives controlled by Republican lawmakers, many expect them to move forward with a bill this week that would give the Biden administration the power to ban TikTok nationwide.
According to reports, the bill proposed by Texas lawmaker Mike McCaul would prevent challenges the Biden White House would face in court if it decided to move forward with sanctions against TikTok.
The legislation would allow the administration to ban TikTok and other software applications affiliated with the Chinese government that threatens America’s national security. McCaul, the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and many other Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate have been vocally critical of the social media app, saying that it is being used by the Chinese Communist government to “manipulate and monitor its users while it gobbles up Americans’ data to be used for their malign activities.”
In the Senate, New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez did not shut down the idea of the Senate taking up a bill to allow the Biden administration to act against TikTok, saying that it was “certainly something to consider.”
Following the revelations of the app’s close affiliation to the Chinese government and censorship activities, Republican Senators like Josh Hawley and others have called on the administration to seriously ban the app and investigate its close links to Beijing.
In states like Texas and Utah, Republican governors have banned the app on the phone devices of state legislatures, public offices, and universities. Despite TikTok denying any connection with the Chinese government, new reports reveal that the app has been storing the personal and private information of government officials and journalists.