Editor’s note: Hours after Mr. Gray’s announcement, Gov. Gordon banned TikTok on all state devices.
By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Secretary of State-elect Chuck Gray announced the first major action of his upcoming term on Thursday morning, vowing to ban the use of TikTok on all state-owned devices used in the secretary of state’s office. Gray will take office in early January.
“TikTok has already played a large role in the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to censor political speech and suppress any information which contradicts the Chinese Communist Party’s talking points,” Gray said in an announcement.
“Equally troubling, TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, is subject to the requirements of the Chinese Communist Party, which require all companies to assist the Chinese Government’s intelligence gathering efforts,” he said.
Gray told Cowboy State Daily he hopes his announcement puts pressure on Gov. Mark Gordon to follow suit for the rest of the Wyoming state government.
“I hope the governor bans TikTok across other agencies in state government,” he said.
“To ensure Wyoming maintains integrity in its elections, adequate securities regulation, and the appropriate and safe custody of the many business records maintained by the office, action must be taken before it is too late,” Gray said in his release.
Secretary Of State’s Office
Currently, the secretary of state’s office does not use TikTok in an official capacity, Karen Wheeler, deputy secretary of state, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
“The Secretary of State’s Office does not use TikTok and we never have,” Wheeler said.
That doesn’t mean, however, that employees could not access the video-sharing app on their phones or on their computers.
Gray’s forthcoming action would make the service inaccessible on any office devices.
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday evening to ban the video-sharing app on government phones and devices.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said she wasn’t sure if the House would introduce a similar bill but was talking to the White House about it.
And at least eight governors have banned it on state government devices as well. Four states surrounding Wyoming have implemented the ban including Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Idaho.
The FBI has voiced concerns over the use of TikTok.
TikTok, owned by a company called ByteDance, which is based in Beijing, is subject to Chinese national security data audits because it shares data with ByteDance.
TikTok has taken efforts to distance itself from its China operations, such as by storing U.S. data domestically.
“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.
Opponents of TikTok say it could be used to potentially profile government workers and otherwise surveil Americans.
TikTok’s rise is part of a larger Chinese government effort to expand its control over digital platforms. All other major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are American-owned, but, according to NPR, there are many platforms popping up in areas like precision agriculture, communications, gaming, all connected to Chinese firms.
Former President Donald Trump tried to 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.
Gray’s order would only cover the secretary of state’s office, as Gov. Mark Gordon has not banned TikTok use within the Wyoming state government yet.
“There have been conversations, and we’re currently reviewing the use of TikTok,” Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s spokesman, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “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.”
Gray’s ban would only pertain to state-owned devices, so employees could still use TikTok on their personal devices while in the office, unless further action is taken against this type of use.
Gray has vowed to take other aggressive measures once taking office such as banning the use of ballot drop boxes and performing hand count audits of the state’s elections.
Secretary of State’s Office