The White House said that federal agencies will have 30 days to delete TikTok from all government-issued devices.
The decision on Monday comes as the popular Chinese-owned social media app is under heightened investigation in Washington and around the country over security concerns, with opponents suggesting that the Chinese government may use TikTok to obtain access to private user data or propagate disinformation.
TikTok is already barred on White House devices. Similar limits apply to other federal departments, such as the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Now, the rest of the federal agencies will comply. With a few exceptions for national security, law enforcement, and research purposes, all executive agencies and their contractors must delete TikTok or any app from its parent firm, ByteDance, within 30 days of receiving notice from the Office of Management and Budget.
“The Biden-Harris administration has invested heavily in defending our nation’s digital infrastructure and curbing foreign adversaries’ access to Americans’ data,” said Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer. “This guidance is part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy.”
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Following the White House’s action on Monday, Brooke Oberwetter, a representative for TikTok, described such restrictions on the social media platform as “nothing more than political theatre.”
“The ban of TikTok on federal devices passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments,” Oberwetter said in a statement sent to USA TODAY.
“We hope that when it comes to addressing national security concerns about TikTok beyond government devices, Congress will explore solutions that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry charged the American administration with abusing state authority during a press conference on Tuesday.
“How unsure of itself can the world’s top superpower be to fear a young people’s favourite app like that?” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said. The U.S. government “has been over-stretching the concept of national security and abusing state power to suppress foreign companies. We firmly oppose those wrong actions.”
Several foreign social media and communications services, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, have been prohibited in China for a very long time.
The advice from Monday comes as House Republicans prepare to introduce a bill on Tuesday that would grant President Joe Biden the authority to outlaw TikTok and other software programmes that pose a threat to national security.
Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has sponsored the proposal. The Chinese Communist Party is using TikTok, according to McCaul, to “manipulate and watch its users while it gobbles up Americans’ data to be exploited for their harmful actions.”
Among those who are against the bill is the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU emphasised in a press statement on Monday that the government “cannot restrict a social media platform just because the app is from a Chinese corporation,” arguing that such a ban would go against First Amendment rights.
More than half of the states in the United States have enacted whole or partial bans for state-issued devices in addition to the federal restrictions on TikTok.
On Monday, Canada also declared that any mobile devices provided by the government will no longer be able to access TikTok. Meanwhile, the executive arm of the European Union announced last week that TikTok has been temporarily banned from employee-owned phones because to cybersecurity concerns.