The White House has effectively banned TikTok from all federal devices and given agencies 30 days to ditch the app.
The Office of Management and Budget at the White House released guidance Monday detailing that federal agencies must “identify the use or presence” of TikTok on federal devices and “[r]emove and disallow installations” of the app among other things. The mandate provides “limited exceptions” for the purposes of law enforcement, national security, and security research. Reuters was the first to report the White House plan.
This show of concern for American privacy is a turnaround for the Biden administration after it revoked the Trump-era executive order that banned communist Chinese government-tied applications and took several days to take down the Chinese spy balloon. But the White House line is that this move is “part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy," according to a statement federal Chief Information Security officer Chris DeRusha reportedly gave Axios.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter, however, claimed the United States banned the app from federal devices “without any deliberation” in an act of “political theater,” according to the Axios report.
The platform even feigned concerns of censorship. "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," Oberwetter added.
This comment is rich given TikTok’s penchant for censoring content on its platform.
An MRC Free Speech America analysis found that TikTok permanently banned 11 pro-free speech organizations. Pro-life groups like Live Action and Students for Life of America and commentators like Tom Fitton, retired Lt. Col. Allen West and Michael Knowles were included among the 11 banned groups and individuals.
The federal government’s TikTok ban follows the European Commission’s Corporate Management Board directive banning the app from corporate devices.
In a statement, the Commission expressed concern that user data could be used in cyberattacks: “This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyberattacks against the corporate environment of the Commission.”
Staff at the Commission have until March 15 to delete the app from devices used for work purposes.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, showed similar concerns when he tried to convince Google and Apple to ban TikTok from its app stores last month.
“[W]e should accept the very real possibility that the CCP could compel TikTok, via ByteDance, to use its influence to advance Chinese government interests,” Bennet’s Feb. 2 letter read He offered the example of the app “tweaking its algorithm to present Americans content to undermine U.S. democratic institutions or muffle criticisms of CCP policy toward Hong Kong, Taiwan, or its Uighur population.”.
These concerns are not unfounded.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr last month shared the results of a study that found the app has “the worst” data security score among its peer social media platform apps.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It's not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That's the sheep's clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data," Carr wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai in 2022.
Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on so-called “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the CensorTrack contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.