Wisconsin, North Carolina Join 20 Other States to Ban TikTok From Government Devices

Wisconsin, North Carolina Join 20 Other States to Ban TikTok From Government Devices
TikTok app logo in an illustration taken on Aug. 22, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Wisconsin and North Carolina have joined at least 20 other states to ban the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok from state devices amid growing concerns over threats to national security.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Jan, 12 statement, “It’s important for us to protect state information technology from foreign countries that have actively participated in cyberattacks.”

“Protecting North Carolina from cyber threats is vital to ensuring the safety, security, privacy, and success of our state and its people,” he added.

WeChat, a messaging platform owned by a Chinese technology company was also added to the ban list.

The North Carolina governor did not rule out prohibition of other applications that pose an “unacceptable cybersecurity risk,” the statement read.

The ban came after two state representatives exerted pressure on the Democrat governor.
State Reps. Jason Saine and Jon Hardister, both Republicans, sent a letter to the Democrat governor (pdf) insisting that Cooper remove the Chinese video app “swiftly and decisively,” deeming it to be a “matter of national security.”

“As we know, the Chinese government is constantly working to infiltrate our communications and access intellectual data within the United States,” Saine and Hardister wrote. “If sensitive data is breached, it could pose both an economic and security threat for North Carolina. We have a responsibility to prevent this from happening, which is why we are urging an executive order as soon as possible.”

Saine and Hardister referenced past orders, such as the one the chief administrative officer for the U.S. House of Representatives issued on Dec. 28 for all lawmakers to delete the app on all devices managed by the House.

A Congressional omnibus bill passed on Dec. 23 last year includes legislation that would ban the social media app TikTok from federal government devices. Earlier, the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” was approved unanimously by the Senate.

Congress also recently passed legislation to bar the app on government devices.

The two lawmakers said that Cooper’s inaction would prompt them to proceed to work in the 2023 legislative session to bring about a law that would ban TikTok from government-issued devices in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers signed an executive order banning TikTok and other potential cybersecurity-threatening technologies on state-issued devices.

The ban list included Tiktok, WeChat, and other Chinese-owned technology brands including Huawei and ZTE Corp.

“New and evolving technologies will continue to present risks to privacy, safety, and security, and this order ensures we will continue to be vigilant in monitoring these technologies while trusting the advice of these experts on evolving cybersecurity issues facing our state,” Evers said in an interview with WISN 12 News.
The governor also pledged to continue evaluating and identifying other platforms and vendors that could pose a threat to cybersecurity.

TikTok a ‘Weaponized’ Application

TikTok has long been the subject of congressional scrutiny due to its ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its practice of sending user data to ByteDance employees located in China.

Data is classified as a national resource under CCP rules, which require businesses with headquarters in China or that are majority-controlled by Chinese organizations to turn over all data, including proprietary source code and other intangibles, to the government upon request.

Security experts have described TikTok as a “weaponized” application for this reason and have said that the app siphons an immense amount of data from Americans that could be sent to the CCP. Such data includes not only browsing history, but also facial recognition information, keystroke input, passwords, bank information, and even whatever users have copied to their virtual clipboard.

Tool for Cognitive Warfare

Casey Fleming, CEO of intelligence and security strategy firm BlackOps Partners recently described the Chinese app as a tool for the CCP’s effort at cognitive warfare.

“Some folks call Tiktok ‘digital fentanyl,’ because what’s happening is folks are getting dopamine hits when they’re going on Tik Tok. And it keeps them on Tiktok looking at subversive messaging, psychological information, and it gets them addicted to it,” he said.

“Not only that, it reprograms their brains, so where they’re not critical thinkers or their critical thinking is reduced and so on,” he added.

Fleming characterized TikTok as a “weaponized military application” aimed at weakening and dominating the minds of the adversary’s population.

Likewise, FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly said TikTok is a national security threat to the United States and that, among other concerns, ByteDance’s control of the app’s algorithm makes it vulnerable to CCP manipulation.

The Chinese regime “could use it to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose, or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it opportunity to potentially, technically compromise personal devices,” Wray said during a Nov. 15 hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The Epoch Times reached out to Tiktok for comment but has not received a reply as of this date.

Matt McGregor, Andrew Thornebrooke contributed to this report.
Hannah Ng is a reporter covering U.S. and China news. She holds a master's degree in international and development economics from the University of Applied Science Berlin.
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