TikTok: A flashpoint with China?

TikTok: A flashpoint with China?

As tensions rise with China, American lawmakers are growing more concerned about TikTok, the social media app owned by Chinese company ByteDance. A new bipartisan bill would ban the app from operating in the U.S., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said that he is open to approving it.

In December 2022, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that the Chinese government has strong influence on TikTok, potentially using it to sway public opinion and spy on Americans through data collection. That warning sparked a number of officials at all levels of government to take action against TikTok.

Here’s a look at what they’ve done so far:

Federal Level

In 2020, the U.S. military banned TikTok from being accessed on its government-issued devices including phones and computers.

In December 2022, President Biden signed a bill banning TikTok from being accessed on devices belonging to executive branch agencies. The House banned it on their devices soon after.


In August 2020, Florida’s Department of Financial Services banned the app from devices owned by the Department, as well as on personal devices connected to the Department’s Wi-Fi networks. Nebraska quickly followed suit, banning TikTok from all government-owned devices.

Since then, 28 other states have banned TikTok to some degree, bringing the grand total to 30 states.

All together:

  • 3 have banned TikTok in one state department
  • 20 have banned it for all state government devices
  • 7 have banned it for all government devices and personal phones connected to government Wi-Fi networks

While many of these bans have come from conservative states, seven Democratic governors have banned TikTok from being used on government devices. Five of those seven came in January 2023, suggesting more blue states could follow soon. Ho

Public Universities

As offshoots of state governments, many public universities have been affected by state TikTok bans. Others have chosen to ban the app themselves. Considering college-aged people make up a large portion of TikTok users, university bans likely have a bigger effect than bans by state government departments.

  • 46 universities across 7 states have banned TikTok from school-owned devices
  • 5 of those universities have also banned TikTok from personal devices connected to campus Wi-Fi
  • Auburn University is the largest of the 5, with nearly 32,000 students enrolled this year