Government agencies have less than a month to ban the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok from federal devices, according to an Office of Management and Budget memorandum issued Monday.
OMB Director Shalanda Young issued the memorandum for executive departments and agency heads about implementation guidance for banning TikTok on government-issued devices, Reuters first reported.
“The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, enacted the No TikTok on Government Devices Act … , which instructs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with the Administrator of General Services, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Secretary of Defense, to develop standards and guidelines for agencies requiring the removal of TikTok from Federal information technology,” Young said in the memorandum. “This memorandum fulfills that requirement by directing agencies to remove TikTok from Federal devices and providing instructions and deadlines for that removal.”
“Pursuant to the Act, this memorandum applies to ‘the social networking service TikTok or any successor application or service of TikTok developed or provided by ByteDance Limited or an entity owned by ByteDance Limited’ (‘covered application’) and applies to all ‘executive agencies’ (‘agencies’), as that term is defined in 41 U.S.C § 133.2,” Young said in the memorandum.
The memorandum included a list of actions that agencies must take “no later than 30 days following the issuance of this memorandum,” including:
Identify the use or presence of a covered application on information technology;
Establish an internal process to adjudicate limited exceptions, as defined by the Act and described in Section IV;
Remove and disallow installations of a covered application on IT owned or operated by agencies, except in cases of approved exceptions; and,
Prohibit internet traffic from IT owned by agencies to a covered application,except in cases of approved exceptions.
The memo also includes requirements for the following 90 and 120 days from the document’s issue date.
“While I’m glad OMB is now taking steps to follow the law, nothing short of ending TikTok’s operations within the United States will fully address the national security threat the app poses to U.S. citizens,” Kara Frederick, director of the Tech Policy Center at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
China reacted to the news, slamming the United States’ actions as “wrong.”
“We firmly oppose those wrong actions,” Mao Ning, spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters on Tuesday. “The U.S. government should respect the principles of market economy and fair competition, stop suppressing the companies and provide an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies in the U.S.”
“How unsure of itself can the world’s top superpower like the U.S. be to fear young people’s favourite app like that?” Mao added.
A TikTok spokesperson labeled the TikTok bans “little more than political theater.”
“The ban of TikTok on federal devices was passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater,” a TikTok spokesperson told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement. “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 swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years,” the spokesperson added. “These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies, and we are well underway in implementing them to further secure our platform in the United States.”
TikTok faces bipartisan scrutiny at both the state and federal level. More than 30 states, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Carolina, and led by Democrats and Republicans alike, have taken action to ban the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok on some or all state-issued devices and networks, The Daily Signal previously reported.
Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released “a statewide model security plan for Texas state agencies to address vulnerabilities presented by the use of TikTok and other software on personal and state-issued devices,” according to a press release.
The “model security plan for prohibited technologies” has five objectives applying “to all state agencies and institutions of higher education (IHEs), including their employees, contractors, interns, or any users of state-owned networks.” Each state agency had until Feb. 15 “to implement its own policy to enforce this statewide plan.”
Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s chief executive officer, is scheduled to testify March 23 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Reuters reported.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to vote Tuesday on a bill proposed by Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, to give the White House necessary legal tools to ban the popular app over national security concerns, Reuters also reported.
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