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19 Apr, 2023
2 min time to read

The use of TikTok on government-issued devices has already been prohibited by Congress.

As pressure to ban TikTok nationwide mounts, a group of Republican lawmakers is urging their colleagues to stop using the app. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rep. Dan Crenshaw, and more than a dozen other Republicans have written letters to the Senate and House rules committees, demanding that elected officials be banned from using TikTok. While Congress and some state legislatures banned the app on government-owned devices last year, these rules don't currently apply to members' personal phones and devices.

The lawmakers expressed concern that some members continue to ignore the warnings and even encourage their constituents to use TikTok, especially since some users are minors. They believe further action is necessary to protect the privacy of sensitive congressional information and personal information of constituents.

To ban officials from using TikTok, the committees would need to amend standing House and Senate rules to include language that bars members from using the app. The committees are likely to hold hearings related to the proposed change before putting the new language up to a series of votes for approval.

Despite efforts to ban TikTok, some lawmakers continue to use the app to engage with their constituents. Some members who use TikTok, such as Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), have gained significant followings by posting videos explaining legislation and responding to news events.

Bowman, who has over 200,000 followers on TikTok, led a press conference at the Capitol last month opposing a ban on the app. More than 20 TikTok creators, flown out by the company, and two other House Democrats joined Bowman at the press conference. Since then, more Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ilhan Omar (MN), have made statements condemning efforts to ban the app.

While lawmakers have argued for over three years that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, could be used by the Chinese government to spy on American citizens, some members of Congress who regularly use the app have minimized the security threat. The lawmakers who wrote the letters believe that this defense is not compelling, considering there are several popular social media apps that are not at the same risk for the potential transfer of sensitive, private information to an adversarial foreign government.