Why Are US States Banning TikTok?
TikTok has already been under the federal government’s magnifying glass, with the director of the FBI says the social video app is a national security threat. And now the governors of Virginia and Georgia have taken action against the company.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order on Friday banning TikTok and the Chinese social media app WeChat from state-controlled devices and wireless networks.
“TikTok and WeChat data are a conduit to the Chinese Communist Party, and their continued presence represents a threat to national security, the intelligence community, and the personal privacy of every single American,” Youngkin said in a press release. “We are taking this step today to secure state government devices and wireless networks from the threat of infiltration and ensure that we protect the data and cybersecurity of state government.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued a similar order on Thursday ban TikTok from state government devices.
TikTok said it was disappointed by the actions of some state and federal officials. A spokesperson said in an email that the company is ready to deploy solutions developed under the guidance of national security agencies “to further secure our platform here in the United States.”
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita filed two lawsuits against TikTok in early December. The first alleges that the platform “lured children” to content on the app that contained sexual content, profanity or drug references. In the second lawsuit, the state alleges that TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has personal information and sensitive data from Indiana consumers and misled them into believing their data was protected from the Chinese government.
“The TikTok app is a malicious and imminent threat unleashed on unsuspecting Indiana consumers by a Chinese company that knows full well the harm it causes users,” Attorney General Rokita said in a press release. “With these pair of lawsuits, we hope to force TikTok to stop its false, deceptive and misleading practices, which violate Indiana law.”
TikTok says the privacy and security of its community is a top priority.
“We build youth wellness into our policies, restrict features by age, empower parents with tools and resources, and continue to invest in new ways to enjoy content based on age appropriateness or family convenience,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a email said. “We are also confident that we are on a path in our negotiations with the US government to fully satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns, and we have already made significant progress in implementing those solutions.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott also took action against TikTok in early December, calling for state agencies to ban their employees from downloading or using the app on devices such as phones, tablets and laptops. He then ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Information Resources to create a plan to address vulnerabilities presented by the use of TikTok. He also wrote a letter to Texas legislative leaders about implementing cybersecurity reforms in the upcoming session that takes place next year.
“TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices — including when, where and how they conduct Internet activities — and presents this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” Abbott wrote in a letter.
A TikTok spokesperson says the ban on the app is “largely fueled by misinformation about our company.”
In 2020, the Trump administration banned TikTok many phones issued by the government and the military. Since then, the Biden administration has maintained that ban while investigating enforcement. The CIA confirmed this in 2020 user information may be intercepted by the Chinese governmentbut there was no indication that this would happen.