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More States Ban TikTok, Congress Seeks To Outlaw Company; Wyoming Still Evaluating

in News/Technology

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Count Utah and Alabama as the two latest states to disallow use of the social media platform TikTok on its state government computer networks and phones.

Utah’s decision makes three states surrounding Wyoming to outlaw the video sharing app, which is owned by a company in China.

Nebraska was the first state to ban it more than two years ago while South Dakota axed usage on Friday.

With Utah and Alabama on board, there are now seven states not allowing it. The reason is the same: cybersecurity concerns.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Monday said Chinese law allows the government to take data from the company, including users in the U.S.

“China’s access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity,” Cox said. “As a result, we’ve deleted our TikTok account and ordered the same on all state-owned devices. We must protect Utahns and make sure that the people of Utah can trust the state’s security systems.”

FBI Warning

Last month, the FBI warned that the Chinese government could use the app to gather data from US users.

Speaking at a Homeland Security Committee hearing in the U.S. House, FBI Director Chris Wray said there were a number of concerns his agency had.

“They include the possibility that the Chinese government 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 an opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices,” Wray said.

Wyoming Evaluating

The use of the app is still allowable in Wyoming state government.

On Friday, gubernatorial spokesman Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily that Gov. Mark Gordon has asked for a review of TikTok but has not determined a cause of action yet.

“There have been conversations, and we’re currently reviewing the use of TikTok,” Pearlman said. “It doesn’t appear there’s very much use of TikTok in Wyoming state government; however, the governor has asked to review the use of the app.” 

The governor’s office on Tuesday said there were no new updates.

South Dakota

Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Nov. 29 signed an executive order banning the video-streaming application altogether for state government agencies, employees and contractors using state devices.

Noem said the app poses security concerns.  

“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of the Chinese Communist Party,” Noem said.

Alabama

In announcing the ban Monday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said TikTok collects user data unrelated to its “supposed purpose of video sharing.”

“Use of TikTok involving state IT infrastructure thus creates an unacceptable vulnerability to Chinese infiltration operations,” Ivey said.

Trump

Former President Donald Trump tried to all but outlaw the app more than two years ago when he issued an executive order banning all transactions with TikTok by U.S. citizens.

But a judge stepped in and stopped the order.

Congress

In the meantime, members of Congress have introduced legislation that would do what Trump tried to accomplish.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday announced legislation that would “block and prohibit all transactions” by social media companies that are based in countries which are considered foreign adversaries. The bill specifically calls out TikTok.

“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” Rubio said. “There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good.”

TikTok Response

Not surprisingly, a representative from TikTok said the company is “disappointed” with the events surrounding the app.

“We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok,” a company spokesperson told the Salt Lake Tribune.

“It is unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, and universities on TikTok in those states will no longer be able to use it to build communities and connect with constituents,” the spokesperson said.

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