by Micaela Burrow
Some lawmakers are active on TikTok even after concerns about the social media platform’s surveillance capabilities prompted Congress to ban it on some federal devices in December.
The bipartisan omnibus spending bill passed on Dec. 23 prohibits TikTok on executive branch mobile devices, with limited carveouts for national security, law enforcement and research purposes. However, Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan appear to be active on the platform, their accounts show, despite voting yes or “present” for the bill.
The Senate voted unanimously to ban TikTok on government-issued mobile devices in December, and the House’s internal cybersecurity office directed members and staffers to delete the app from any work phones on Dec. 27 due to a “high risk to users,” NBC News reported.
The bans followed mounting evidence that TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance has gathered unauthorized data on American users through the app. Beijing, through ByteDance, could use it as an instrument of surveillance, covert influence and espionage, the Biden administration and a bipartisan coalition in Congress have warned.
“We do have national security concerns,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said, according to NBC News. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users.”
Yet at least four Democratic members of Congress appear to have active accounts on TikTok, three of which are verified. TikTok previously sought out popular accounts to verify themselves, but in November 2022 introduced a new feature allowing users to request verification by proving their identity and notability.
Omar’s most recent post, from Jan. 6, is a clip from C-SPAN depicting a rowdy Congress voting on whether to adjourn and reassemble the following day amid multiple failed attempts to determine a speaker of the House.
“It’s a bad sign for your majority when the only consensus you can find is to adjourn,” the caption reads.
Bush last created a TikTok post on Dec. 14, days before the vote. The video depicts Bush and Bowman dancing to a song while descending the Capitol steps, a reaction to a bill she introduced earlier that day.
“let’s gooooooo!” Bowman responded.
Tlaib’s most recent video was posted on Dec. 21 and features her along with Bush acting out a scenario where the pair calls President Joe Biden to assess his progress on an executive order canceling student debt.
Tlaib voted “present” for the omnibus bill, while every other Democratic member voted to pass it, the Congressional record shows.
More than a dozen states, including South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina and Nebraska have banned the social media platform from government devices, echoing the federal government’s concerns, according to CNBC. New bans continue to roll out at the state and local level, such as in Rapid City, South Dakota, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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Micaela Burrow is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “TikTok” by Lorend_g.