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Biden admin says TikTok must be removed from federal devices in 30 days

A fake celebrity death trend took TikTok by storm over the holidays. (Dreamstime/TNS)
February 28, 2023

President Joe Biden’s administration has ordered TikTok to be banned in all executive branch agencies within 30 days, freezing the Chinese-owned social media app out of even more U.S. government devices as some officials call for a complete, nationwide ban.

Agencies have 30 days to remove the app from government devices and start keeping any internet traffic from reaching the service, according to a Monday memo from Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young reported by Reuters.

The move was legally required under a bill passed late last year after drawing broad bipartisan support in Congress, as reported by CNN. The app has already been banned within the White House, all military branches, and several other executive agencies, as well as the House of Representatives.

With its unique video format and powerful algorithm, TikTok’s explosive growth in recent years made it the first foreign social media app to take hold in the U.S. But officials say its ultimate control by the Chinese Communist Party risks that China could intercept Americans’ data or influence them through its video algorithm.

For more than two years, the government has been negotiating a way for TikTok to safely operate in the U.S. without its Beijing-based owner, ByteDance, having to sell the valuable asset. But some officials have said the only way forward is to ban TikTok on all devices in the country.

A bill that would empower Biden to more easily ban TikTok nationwide is set to be debated Tuesday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In a statement, TikTok said “it would be unfortunate” to “censor millions of Americans” based on “a basic misunderstanding of our corporate structure,” as reported by CNN 

“TikTok Inc. is a U.S. company bound by U.S. law, and we are two years and $1.5 billion dollars deep into a project to go above and beyond existing law to secure the U.S. version of the TikTok platform,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said.

There are some exceptions to the new federal agencies ban, including using TikTok for national security interests, law enforcement emergencies and investigations, or probes of “suspected malign foreign influence.” Blanket exceptions applying to entire agencies are not permitted.

In the case of an exception, agencies must document what “risk mitigation actions” they take to protect sensitive data, among other information.