Lawmakers still using TikTok after voting to ban it on federal government devices

Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Jamaal Bowman of New York have posted on the app since the vote despite supporting the bill.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

(Daily Caller News Foundation) — 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 and Jamaal Bowman of New York have posted on the app since the vote despite supporting the bill, and other current and former representatives still have accounts on the platform.

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 Democratic members of Congress who took the vote, including OmarBowman, Reps. Katie Porter and Tony Cardenas of California and former Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who used the platform to promote his Senate campaign, have verified accounts on TikTok. Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri also appears to operate an unverified account.

TikTok previously sought out popular accounts to verify, but in November 2022 introduced a new feature allowing users to request verification by proving their identity and notability.

All six supported the bill banning TikTok on some federal devices, and Omar and Bowman have posted since the vote on Dec. 23.

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.

Bowman posted multiple videos on Jan. 6 and 7 commemorating two years since the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and documenting his reactions to a tumultuous series of votes on the incoming House speaker.

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.

Some Republican members of Congress have called for a total blacklist of the app in the U.S. and hope to push legislation through in the 119th Congress. Politicians, especially younger and more progressive ones, have in recent years have turned to TikTok to connect with Gen Z voters, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The offices of Reps. Omar, Bowman, Bush, Cardenas and Porter did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. Ryan could not be reached for comment.


Micaela Burrow