Sen. Hawley introduces bill banning TikTok nationwide

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was joined by Rep. Ken Buck (R.-Colo.) in introducing a bill that would ban TikTok nationwide. 

“[TikTok] is China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives. It threatens our children’s privacy as well as their mental health. Last month Congress banned it on all government devices. Now I will introduce legislation to ban it nationwide,” Hawley tweeted Tuesday.

Hawley and Buck, along with numerous other lawmakers, allege that the Chinese-based app poses a significant national security risk. Their fear is that the app gives the Chinese government access to user data and could be used for “intelligence or military purposes, including surveillance, microtargeting, deep fakes, or blackmail.”

Hawley and others have been fighting to ban TikTok from government devices and then from civilian devices for years. The “No TikTok On Government Devices Act” was introduced by Hawley and Florida Senator Rick Scott (R.) to prohibit the app from being downloaded on a government-issued device. That bill was signed into law on December 29.

Even after that bill passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by the President, there has been little work done to enforce the law. Hawley told Forbes that he has “yet to see any signs of progress from your agency in developing these standards” and requested the Office of Management and Budget disclose how they will enforce the new law by February 5.

The new bill has also received some bipartisan support. Even CIA Director William Burns said this in an interview in December: “I do. I mean, I think it’s a genuine concern, I think, for the U.S. government, in the sense that, because the parent company of TikTok is a Chinese company, the Chinese government is able to insist upon extracting the private data of a lot of TikTok users in this country, and also to shape the content of what goes onto TikTok as well to suit the interests of the Chinese leadership. I think those are real challenges and a source of real concern.”

Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, said that the proposed nationwide ban “takes a piecemeal approach to national security and a piecemeal approach to broad industry issues like data security, privacy, and online harms.” 

Oberwetter continued, without ever denying that the Chinese government gains access to user data, by saying, “We hope that [Hawley] will focus his energies on efforts to address those issues holistically, rather than pretending that banning a single service would solve any of the problems he’s concerned about or make Americans any safer.” 

The biggest problem with Oberwetter’s statement is that it almost confirms that China is using TikTok for the very purposes that they are being accused of. In place of a denial, Oberwetter simply states that America has more work to do than just banning TikTok to become safer.

Since the bill introduced by Hawley and Scott was passed, 31 of the 50 states have passed legislation barring Tik Tok on state devices, and at least 10 others have introduced legislation or passed limited bans on the social media app.

The work is being done to ban this potentially dangerous Chinese tool. Now the ball is in the Biden administration’s court to enforce the legislation that has been passed.