Omnibus Spending Bill Includes TikTok Ban On Government Phones

December 20, 2022

Language that would ban the Chinese-based video sharing app TikTok from federal government devices has been included in the massive omnibus spending bill that Congress must approve in the next few days.

The 4,155-page, $1.7 trillion bill was unveiled  early Tuesday by leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Lawmakers have until the end of Friday to approve the package or else federal funds are set to run out, bringing key government agencies and programs to a halt.

Among its language, it orders the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to create guidelines for executive agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. The plan and guidelines would be required by mid-February, if the bill passes Congress ahead of Friday’s funding deadline.

The ban has bipartisan and bicameral support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was pushing to include the TikTok provision in the big year-end bill, according to her office. Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) who authored a version of the TikTok bill that passed the Senate last week, called the government device ban “the first major strike against Big Tech enacted into law.”

The change comes amid a wave of newly ordered restrictions on the social media app by state governments. More than a dozen states have recently banned the use of TikTok on state government phone devices, including seven just this past week.

Those latest bans follow warnings from FBI Director Chris Wray, who said last month that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control data collection on millions of American users, or to control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.

And over the Summer, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether TikTok misled users about the safety of their data.

TikTok has pushed back, saying that it has been working on securing data flows and highlighting its progress on a deal to move American info onto Texas-headquartered Oracle servers.

And Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, said earlier this month that the concern is overstated. He said TikTok collects less data than other social media apps.

Yet U.S. lawmakers continue to press. Rep. Raj Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) has co-sponsored legislation to prohibit TikTok from operating in the U.S. altogether. He called the government device ban in the Omnibus bill an appropriate initial step and said there was a “groundswell of support” for wider action.

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