“In light of all we know, it is unthinkable to me that we should continue to permit federal employees, those workers entrusted with sensitive government data, to access this app on their work phones and computers,” Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who introduced the bill, said in a statement. “I’m encouraged by the bipartisan support we have seen in this body to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and that includes, by the way, holding accountable those corporations who would just do China’s bidding. And, if I have anything to say about it, we won’t be stopping here.”
Multiple branches of the military, as well as the TSA, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security have already banned TikTok from devices.
U.S. officials are concerned that TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based Bytedance, would be obligated to share data with the Chinese government if requested.
Article 7 of China’s 2017 national security law states that “any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and maintain the secrecy of all knowledge of state intelligence work.”
TikTok, which has been downloaded two billion times according to the mobile app research firm Sensor Tower, did not appear phased by Hawley’s bill on Thursday.
“TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it’s their home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection, which we recognize is not what federal government devices are for,” a TikTok spokesperson told Fox News in a statement. “We’ve hired nearly 1,000 people to our US team this year alone, and we’re proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protects our users’ privacy.”
The Senate bill comes as the Trump administration ramps up its war against technology that has Chinese origins.
“We want to see untrusted Chinese apps removed from U.S. app stores. President Trump has mentioned impending action on TikTok, and for good reason,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press conference Wednesday. “With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat, and others are significant threats to the personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP content censorship.”
President Trump has said he will give an American company until September 15 to buy TikTok or he will ban it. The Financial Times reported Thursday morning that Microsoft is looking to buy all of TikTok’s global operations. Business Insider later rebuffed that report though, calling it false. The President has insisted that the U.S. Treasury get a cut of whatever deal is made, potentially complicating negotiations.