Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he is planning to introduce legislation to ban use of the popular social media app TikTok across the United States.  


In a tweet on Jan. 24, Sen. Hawley wrote that TikTok is “China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives. It threatens our children’s privacy as well as their mental health.”


“Last month Congress banned it on all government devices,” the senator said. “Now I will introduce legislation to ban it nationwide.”


Sen. Hawley, a longtime critic of the app, was the chief author of the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, which bans all Federal employees from using TikTok on government devices. 


The bill, co-authored by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., was approved unanimously in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2021. Later in December 2022, the bill received unanimous approval in the Senate and was signed into law as part of a $1.7 trillion Federal funding bill at the end of last year.


Several states have also taken steps to prohibit TikTok on government devices. Many public universities have also restricted access to TikTok on school computers, mobile phones, and Wi-Fi per executive orders in those states banning the app on government-owned devices and networks.


However, Sen. Hawley’s bill goes much further, proposing restrictions on TikTok across non-government devices in the U.S. Accomplishing that goal, and then enforcing it, would represent a much heavier lift from a technology standpoint as TikTok is a web-enabled application.


Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., introduced a similar bill in the House and Senate last year to prohibit TikTok in the United States. 


Those lawmakers at the time said their bill aimed to protect Americans from foreign adversaries who might use certain social media to surveil Americans, learn sensitive data, and spread influence campaigns or propaganda. The legislation would give the president authority to impose sanctions on TikTok and other social media companies to prevent commercial operations in the U.S. 


That bill, however, didn’t make it to a vote in either the full House or Senate last year.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.