Bans on TikTok gain momentum in Washington and states

Politicians of both parties share concerns that the app puts sensitive data into the hands of China’s government.

The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok office on December 20, 2022 in Culver City, California. Congress is pushing legislation to ban the popular Chinese-owned social media app from most government devices. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Biden administration has negotiated with TikTok for two years to resolve the government’s concerns that the popular Chinese-owned video app poses a national security risk. But as talks drag on, state and federal lawmakers have become impatient and taken matters into their own hands.

In the past several weeks, at least 14 states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices. In Congress, lawmakers are expected to vote this week on a sweeping spending bill that includes a ban of TikTok on all federal government devices. A separate bipartisan bill, which was introduced in Congress last week, would ban the app for everyone in the United States. In addition, Indiana’s attorney general has sued TikTok, accusing the company of being deceptive about the security and privacy risks the app poses.


What started a few years ago as an effort from the Trump administration has evolved into an increasingly bipartisan issue. Politicians of both parties share concerns that the app could surveil users in the United States and put sensitive data, including location information, into the hands of China’s government.

Federal officials have also expressed fear around how China could use the app to sway Americans through videos delivered through TikTok’s algorithm that pushes highly tailored videos to users based on their profiles and interests. FBI Director Christopher Wray warned last month that the Chinese government could use TikTok for “influence operations,” or try to use the app to infiltrate and compromise devices.

“This is a widespread concern at this point — it’s not just Republicans, it’s not just Democrats,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who last week joined Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and other lawmakers in announcing legislation to ban TikTok in the United States.

The bans are part of escalating tensions between the United States and China over global technology and economic leadership.

U.S. officials have argued that TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese-based ByteDance and has an estimated 100 million users in the United States, can share sensitive data about the location, personal habits and interests of Americans with the Chinese government.


TikTok has long denied that it shares data with Chinese government officials.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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