The White House has directed federal agencies that they have 30 days to remove TikTok from all government-issued devices.
Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in guidance issued Monday that all executive agencies, and those they contract with, must delete any application from TikTok or its parent company, ByteDance, within 30 days of the notice, with few exceptions. Within 90 days, agencies must include in contracts that the short-form video app cannot be used on devices and must cancel any contracts that necessitate the app’s use.
The guidance memorandum from the Biden administration will bring the executive branch and its contractors into compliance with a bill passed at the end of last year requiring federal agencies to ditch TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It marks the latest effort to clampdown on the app amid renewed security concerns about its US user data and fears that it could find its way to the Chinese government.
The bill swiftly moved through Congress in December, landing in the massive year-end omnibus spending package.
Reuters first reported on the guidance.
US officials have raised concerns that the Chinese government could pressure ByteDance to hand over information collected from users that could be used for intelligence or disinformation purposes. As CNN has previously reported, independent security experts have said that type of access is a possibility, though there has been no reported incident of such access to date.
Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, called such a ban “little more than political theater.”
“The ban of TikTok on federal devices passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments,” Oberwetter said in a statement, adding: “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.”
Mao Ning, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, responded Tuesday to a question following the announcement, saying that the US is “generalizing the concept of national security,” “abusing national power” and “unreasonably suppressing enterprises of other countries.”
Canada announced it would also be banning the app on government devices beginning as soon as Tuesday, and the European Commission last week issued its own prohibition on the app on official devices, citing cybersecurity concerns.
Over half of all US states have also partially or fully banned TikTok on the devices of government employees, and the US House of Representatives previously announced it had restricted the app on electronic devices managed by the chamber.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to be the sole witness at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for late March.