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US House blocks TikTok on official devices

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TikTok has been banned from all devices run by the US House of Representatives, according to the House’s administrative arm, ahead of a new government-wide ban on the popular Chinese-owned video app that will soon come into effect. vigor.

The House administrative director cited “high-risk” security concerns in a memo on Tuesday ordering lawmakers and staffers to remove the app from government devices, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Washington Post. Under the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by the House on Friday, all federal government employees will be banned from installing or required to remove TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, in the latest government measure to limit the use of the app in the public sector. Several Republican governors have banned the app on their governments’ electronic devices.

Reuters was the first to report the news of the ban.

A separate bipartisan bill that was introduced in Congress on Dec. 13 would ban the app for everyone in the United States.

Broad spending bill would ban TikTok on government devices

TikTok’s ban from government mobile devices – which will barely scratch the surface of TikTok’s global reach of more than a billion users – comes after the app was banned from official devices at the White House, in most branches of the military and in several federal administrations. agencies, including Homeland Security and State Departments.

But people who work for the government can still use TikTok on their personal devices – as the social media app widely popularized during the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped culture, changed the way the digital world works and spawned a new language. There are more than 100 million TikTok users in the United States, about one-third of the country’s residents.

Perspective: These government ‘bans’ on TikTok ban almost nothing

The political crackdown on TikTok stems from concerns that the app could be used by Beijing to spy on or influence Americans. Skepticism towards China pushed by Republicans has gained traction after news about TikTok’s security practices. On Thursday, TikTok fired four employees after an internal investigation found workers had followed two American journalists and their associates to see if they had been in contact with ByteDance employees.

TikTok has previously called the impending government-wide ban “a political move that will do nothing to advance national security interests.”

“We are disappointed that Congress has decided to ban TikTok on government devices … rather than encourage the administration to conclude its national security review,” TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter previously told the Post. The company is implementing a data security plan and notifying lawmakers of its proposal, Oberwetter said.

The ban will go into effect once President Biden signs the legislation.

This month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on a federal ban on TikTok, citing an ongoing review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a secretive committee. which oversees foreign companies that have traded with TikTok. since 2019.

“Generally, the Biden administration is focused on challenging certain countries, including China, who seek to leverage American digital technologies and data in ways that pose an unacceptable risk to national security.” , said Jean-Pierre.

The Post previously reported that TikTok had agreed with the committee to separate decision-making on its US operations from its Chinese headquarters. The company will give U.S. authorities the power to veto the appointments of the company’s three board members and senior executives and set hiring standards, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Post on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized. to publicly discuss conversations.

The interim framework, the four people said, would prevent access to US user data by Chinese government officials or ByteDance employees in Beijing. US government-approved third-party monitors would check the platform’s recommendation algorithms and content moderation systems to help prevent foreign influence in the videos people see, the people said. The committee has not yet approved this plan.

“This is a comprehensive set of measures with layers of government and independent oversight to address concerns about TikTok content recommendation and access to US user data – measures far beyond what does any peer company today,” Oberwetter told the Post.

Drew Harwell, Julian Mark and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.

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