• Republicans want all lawmakers to 'stop using the platform for official communications'
  • Congress members and staffers aren't allowed to use TikTok on House-issued devices
  • AOC and a few other Democrats have expressed doubts about a nationwide ban

Several Republican lawmakers are demanding that all lawmakers be barred from using TikTok as the White House mulls further efforts to ban the Chinese video-sharing app in the United States amid concerns related to national security.

"It is clear from the testimony and comments from TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, that all members of Congress must lead by example and immediately stop using the platform for official communications," a group of Republican senators and Congress members wrote in a letter this week to the Senate and House rules committees.

The letter, which included the signatures of Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., asked the panels to bar Congress members from "continued use of TikTok," which the lawmakers called a "de-facto, spyware app."

Late last year, lawmakers and their staff were prohibited from downloading TikTok by House chief administrative officer Catherine L. Szpindor, according to an internal memo obtained by NBC News. Those who have already downloaded the app were ordered to delete it, according to the outlet.

However, the said rule only applies to any House-issued mobile phone, as per NBC News.

Szpindor said in the memo that her office's cybersecurity team found the ByteDance-owned app to be a "high risk to users due to a number of security risks."

This time, Republicans want the rules committees of Congress and Senate to "enact a change" to the regulations that will include wording that will prohibit members of Congress to use the app on their personal devices if the app will be used for official communications.

"It is troublesome" that some Congress members disregard warnings from Szpindor's office and the Senate's chief information officers regarding TikTok having "data vulnerabilities," the letter stated, adding that some members "are even encouraging their constituents to use TikTok to interface with their elected representatives."

Despite many lawmakers agreeing to the move of banning TikTok in the country, several lawmakers have continued using the app, The Verge reported.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., has been using the popular video app to respond to current news events and explain legislation. He also led a media briefing in March that opposed the TikTok ban, as per The Verge.

The said press conference was also attended by Democratic representatives Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Robert Garcia of California. Rep. Pocan said at the conference that a "xenophobic witch hunt" motivated some Congress members to pursue a TikTok ban, according to Reuters.

Several other Democrats have also expressed doubts about whether a blanket ban was the right step moving forward.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., even as he was among the members who grilled Chew at the Congress hearing, said he was open to discussing data privacy legislation as he believes that data abuse was a bigger issue, Politico reported.

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., noted that Congress should "not fall prey to tribalism or nationalism when it comes to tech policy" as she believes the app was "a proxy in the escalating tensions with China."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), D-N.Y., also joined other Democrats in questioning whether a nationwide ban was the proper move. "If we want to make a decision as significant as banning TikTok, and we believe – or someone believes – that there is really important information that the public deserves to know about why such a decision would be justified, that information should be shared," she said in her first TikTok video that has been liked more than 740,000 times as of writing and received nearly 28,00 comments. The video was viewed 4.1 million times as of Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Montana lawmakers made history Friday when they voted 54 for and 43 against imposing a state-wide ban on TikTok, making it the first state to impose a total ban on the Chinese app.

A spokeswoman for TikTok previously said courts still had to decide whether the bill, which has yet to be signed into law by Montana's governor, was constitutional or not. "We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach," the spokeswoman said.

Lawmakers who grilled Chew last month insisted that TikTok was a threat to national security and posed mental health risks to users. Chew said it was a "misconception" that ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, was "owned or controlled by the Chinese government."

TikTok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration
U.S. lawmakers are pushing to ban TikTok in the country, but there has been a pushback from a small group of Democrats who believe the matter should be tackled more cautiously. Reuters