The potential ban comes as TikTok tries to convince the American government to accept a plan that would subject the business to strict control.
In a must-pass omnibus spending bill, Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday inserted language that, for the first time, forbids federal employees from installing the TikTok app on their government-issued phones and other devices. This is the latest indication that concerns over the company’s Chinese ownership are growing.
One of the most well-known apps on the internet, TikTok, has taken over culture both online and offline, alarming government authorities who are hesitant of giving any authority to a rival superpower. Competing social networking networks, including Facebook’s parent corporation Meta, have been alarmed by its rapid rise.
TikTok has more than 100 million subscribers in the United States, so its ban on devices that were provided by the government is primarily symbolic. However, the decision coincides with similar restrictions in 19 states, all of which have Republican governors, and calls from lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), to outlaw the app nationwide.
Chinese aggression is becoming more widely recognised, according to James Lewis, senior vice president and director of the strategic technologies programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Lewis cited China’s restriction on American-made applications like Facebook and Twitter. TikTok is involved in it, guilty or not, he declared.
TikTok, which is controlled by the Chinese firm ByteDance, has been negotiating a contract with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a covert cross-government organisation with the authority to scuttle corporate deals that potentially jeopardise national security, since 2019.
The specifics of those discussions remain private. However, four individuals who were privy to the conversations and who talked to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss the conversations According to reports, TikTok has agreed to give U.S. authorities veto power over the appointment of the business’s proposed three-member board and its senior executives. The company has also reportedly agreed to separate decision-making for its U.S. operations from ByteDance.
The four individuals claimed that in addition to setting the hiring criteria for TikTok’s American employees, U.S. officials would also oversee the programme, which would subject the company to much stricter government regulation than is presently the case for any American technology company. They added that the project, known internally as Project Texas, had already cost the business more than $1.5 billion to undertake.
The four individuals said that the scheme would prohibit Chinese government representatives or ByteDance workers in Beijing from accessing user data from American users. In order to assist avoid any foreign influence in the videos people watch, it also envisages the appointment, with U.S. government consent, of third-party monitors who would independently audit the platform’s recommendation algorithms and content-moderation systems.
In an effort to garner support, the business has started explaining the concept to Biden administration officials. A CFIUS working group has already voiced its first support, the sources claimed. The corporation last submitted the plan to CFIUS in August, but the panel’s members have yet to provide their approval, leaving the issue open even as new governmental restrictions are implemented.
No agreement is forthcoming, according to administration officials, and the agencies are still discussing whether to adopt this plan or take a different course of action.
A spokesperson for TikTok, Brooke Oberwetter, referred to the decision to put the restriction on TikTok use on devices that are provided by the government as a “political gesture that would do nothing to enhance national security goals.”
Oberwetter expressed disappointment that Congress decided to take action to outlaw TikTok on government-owned devices rather than pressuring the administration to complete its national security review. According to Oberwetter, the corporation’s implementation of its data-security plan is “well underway,” and the company is still updating lawmakers on its proposal.
The $1.7 trillion omnibus funding package to finance the U.S. government through the majority of 2023 contains a clause prohibiting TikTok from being used on government equipment. The bill was revealed early on Tuesday by leading Democrats and Republicans; Congress must pass it by Friday to prevent a partial government shutdown.
The White House Office of Management and Budget would be given 60 days to “create criteria and procedures for executive agencies demanding the removal” of TikTok from federal devices under the proposed legislation.
Most military units, the White House, and a number of governmental organisations, including the departments of Homeland Security and State, have already banned TikTok from their computers and mobile devices.
Chief Operating Officer of TikTok Vanessa Pappas testified before Congress in September that the company’s Chinese staff adhere to stringent access restrictions over American data and do not divulge information to China.
The inclusion of the TikTok clause highlighted the growing, partisan hostility toward China in Congress as well as the escalating efforts by Republicans to portray the Biden administration as being soft on China. Just last week, a law banning TikTok on devices used by the government received full support in the Senate. TikTok has been dubbed “a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party” and is posing serious security dangers for the United States, according to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo. ), who filed the measure.
He tweeted on Tuesday after the measure was unveiled, “After years of debate, the TikTok ban will be the first big strike against Big Tech adopted into law.”
Republicans in Washington have made TikTok a popular target because they assert without providing any supporting data that the corporation serves as a stooge or propagandist for the Chinese government.
As The Post first reported in March, Meta sought to discredit TikTok, its largest rival, earlier this year by hiring a significant Republican consulting firm to undertake a national lobbying and media campaign depicting TikTok as a threat to American society.
The proposal had the support of key figures on both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
However, many people, including those who concur that Chinese espionage should be of concern, believe that removing the software from government-issued devices has little impact. According to Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, China’s cyberespionage has been aggressive over the past 20 years and should be cause for concern.
Is there a cause for concern, then? Yes, Lewis replied. Does the security situation alter as a result of the proposed ban? Not much, at all.