Two More US States Issue TikTok Bans for Security Reasons

Two More US States Issue TikTok Bans for Security Reasons
The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok office in Culver City, Calif., on Aug. 27, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Bryan Jung

The states of Louisiana and West Virginia are the latest to ban the use of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on government devices.

TikTok, which is owned by the China-based company ByteDance, boasts of at least 100 million users alone in the United States.

Government agencies in both states banned the app on all government-owned devices on Dec. 19, due to concerns that China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could use it to track American citizens and censor content.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin wrote a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards on why he had banned TikTok on all devices used by his office, citing potential security threats.

“As Secretary of State, I have the serious responsibility of protecting voters’ personal identifying information, which is why I have taken the step of banning the use of TikTok on all devices owned or leased by my agency,” Ardoin wrote.

“I wholeheartedly believe that doing so on a statewide level would protect our data and reaffirm our commitment to privacy protections for our constituents.”

West Virginia State Auditor J.B. McCuskey also banned TikTok for the same reasons as his agency.

“We have seen the threat that China and its government poses to our critical infrastructure, and this move is a proactive approach to protect the taxpayers of West Virginia,” McCuskey said.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry also demanded that Google and Apple to increase the age restriction for downloading the CCP-owned social media platform to 17+ by the end of the year, for promoting obscenity towards minors.

More States Ban TikTok After Feds Warning

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a ban on TikTok for all government phones and computers used by state employees, citing cybersecurity risks.

“TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices—including when, where, and how they conduct Internet activity—and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” Abbott wrote.

Abbott’s move follows similar bans by governors of Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Maryland, Utah, and Virginia to protect their state agencies from security risks posed by the app.

Washington is also considering banning the use of TikTok for government business, making it the first Democrat-led state to consider restricting the use of the video platform, reported Al Jazeera.
Attorney General Todd Rokita of Indiana filed a lawsuit against TikTok alleging that the company deceived users on how Chinese employees could access their data and also accused the app of exposing minors to mature content.
Several federal agencies, including the White House and the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department, have already banned the app for national security purposes.

TikTok released a statement, saying that they were “disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.”

A woman walks past the headquarters of ByteDance, the parent company of video sharing app TikTok, in Beijing, China, on Sept. 16, 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman walks past the headquarters of ByteDance, the parent company of video sharing app TikTok, in Beijing, China, on Sept. 16, 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray told an audience at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, that the CCP could use the app’s software to manipulate content or users.

“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States. That should concern us,” Wray said.
At least 19 out of 50 states have now partially blocked or banned TikTok from government computers, with most of the restrictions coming within two weeks after the FBI Director’s statements.

Bipartisan TikTok Ban Awaits Vote In Congress

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sponsored a Senate bill last week with bipartisan support that would bar federal employees from using the CCP-vulnerable app on government-owned devices.

The proposed ban also has the backing of outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

The TikTok ban will likely be included among legislation in a controversial $1.7 trillion 2023 omnibus bill to fund the federal government, which is currently up for a vote this week.

Back in June 2020, the Indian government successfully banned TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese-created apps.

Former President Donald Trump had attempted to impose a nationwide prohibition on TikTok in 2020, but lost a series of court battles.

President Joe Biden then reversed any federal attempt to ban the social media app soon after entering office the following year.

Meanwhile, Biden administration officials and representatives of TikTok are currently engaged in talks to negotiate a national security agreement to address concerns about CCP access to personal data from American users.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the government agency focused on foreign threats, has been trying for month to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of TikTok users in the United States.

So far, it appears that no deal will be reached before the end of 2022.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.
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