A proposal to ban US federal employees from using the Chinese short-video app TikTok on government devices could become law, reports Reuters. That risks damaging the company’s reputation and scaring off advertisers, even if it won’t affect many users, experts say.
US lawmakers included the proposal in a key spending bill early Tuesday, all but ensuring its passage later this week after a Senate vote that gave the green light to a similar measure.
The move is the latest U.S. effort to crack down on the popular social media platform, which has been the subject of a lot of recent state-level bans and a long-running U.S. national security review over fears the app could be used by the Chinese government to censor content or spy on Americans.
While the new federal ban is not expected to significantly harm TikTok’s 130 million US users, experts polled by Reuters said the move could damage the company’s reputation, which in turn could scare away valuable advertisers.
“That is what TikTok is at massive risk for: of having that brand reputational (blow) impact the overall revenue monetization that they can make,” said Eunice Shin, partner at brand strategist Prophet.
The ban was tucked into a massive omnibus measure to fund U.S. government operations that is expected to be voted on this week and then sent to President Joe Biden for his signature. The bill gives the White House Office of Management and Budget 60 days “to develop standards and guidelines for executive agencies requiring the removal” of TikTok from federal devices.
Many federal agencies, including the White House and the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments, already banned TikTok from government-owned devices.
About 19 of the 50 US states have already at least partially blocked access to TikTok on government computers. Most of the restrictions were introduced in the last two weeks.
The government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), a national security agency, has been trying for months to reach a national security deal to protect the data of American TikTok users, but it appears that it will not be reached by the end of the year.