TikTok Gets Smacked Down by Multiple States

Maryland, South Dakota, South Carolina cite cybersecurity risks in ban on government devices
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2022 9:20 AM CST
These States Just Banned TikTok on Government Devices
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers makes his acceptance speech on Nov. 9 in Madison, Wisconsin, after winning the governorship election.   (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

Maryland is banning the use of TikTok and certain China- and Russia-based platforms in the state's executive branch of government, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday, citing an unacceptable cybersecurity risk to the state. The Republican governor announced an emergency cybersecurity directive to prohibit the use of the platforms, saying they may be involved in cyberespionage, surveillance of government entities, and inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information, per the AP. Under the directive, state agencies must remove any of these products from state networks. Agencies also are required to implement measures to prevent installation of these products, as well as put in place network-based restrictions to prevent the use of, or access to, prohibited services.

Also on Tuesday, Wisconsin's Republican representatives in Congress called on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to delete the video platform TikTok from all state government devices, calling it a national security threat. Evers doesn't maintain a personal or official TikTok account. His campaign used one, but per state law that wasn't maintained using any government device. The request comes a week after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, banned state employees and contractors from accessing TikTok on state-owned devices, citing its ties to China. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, also a Republican, on Monday banned TikTok from all state government devices. The issue has gained increasing traction in conservative circles.

A researcher with the conservative Heritage Foundation last month called on government officials to ban TikTok from operating entirely in the United States. And last week, FBI Director Chris Wray said China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations as part of his growing warnings about the popular video sharing app. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. It has been targeted by Republicans who say the Chinese government could access user data, such as browsing history and location. US armed forces also have prohibited the app on military devices.

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TikTok, which has exploded in popularity with a nearly addictive scroll of videos, has also struggled to detect ads that contain blatant misinformation about US elections, per a recent report from the nonprofit Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy team at New York University. TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas, based in Los Angeles, has said the company protects all data of American users and that Chinese government officials have no access to it. Former President Trump issued blanket-style orders against Chinese tech companies, but the White House under President Biden has replaced them with a narrower approach. US officials and the company are now in talks over a possible agreement that would resolve American security concerns.

(More TikTok stories.)

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