Utah and Alabama have become the latest states to join the ban of Chinese-owned short-form video app TikTok on state devices and computers, citing a “security threat from China.”
Seems like the Trump administration’s wishes to ban TikTok, now used by over 100 million Americans, are slowly coming true: so far, at least nine other states have implemented local measures against the app, including Texas, Maryland, and South Dakota.
Last month, FBI Director Chris Wray warned that TikTok stays in the hands of the Chinese government, which can control its recommendation algorithm and data collection policies, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.” This could also potentially include more traditional espionage practices.
In response, both Utah and Alabama banned the app from government devices.
“Protecting the state of Alabama and our citizens’ right to privacy is a must, and I surely don’t take a security threat from China lightly,” Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey said in a written accompanying statement. “After we discussed this with our OIT [office of information technology] secretary, I came to the no brainer decision to ban the use of the TikTok app on our state devices and network.”
Ivey has previously expressed concerns about the vast – and higher than necessary for a platform of this kind – amounts of data TikTok requires its users to share in a memo sent to state agency leadership.
“Look, I’m no TikTok user, but the evidence speaks for itself, and I want to make sure I’m doing everything we can as a state to stand against this growing security risk,” Ivey added.
Meanwhile, Utah Governor Spencer Cox also signed an executive order on Monday to effectively ban the use of TikTok on state-owned phones, computers, laptops, or tablets.
"China's access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity," Cox commented in a statement. "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."
Already in 2020, Trump announced that TikTok – owned by Beijing-headquartered ByteDance – presents a national security threat. However, the plan to prohibit US citizens from downloading the app never quite reached its final stages due to a series of legal battles and Trump’s short departure from office.
In turn, President Biden instead ordered the federal government to conduct a "rigorous, evidence-based analysis" of China-based apps and software, identifying potential risks.
"We're disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok," a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.
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