31 states, led by Democrats and Republicans alike, have taken action to ban the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok on some or all state-issued devices and networks.
Then-Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, banned TikTok for state devices on Aug. 12, 2020, citing “security concerns,” Fox Business reported.
“The Chinese government has long engaged in systematic, covert efforts to access sensitive data from U.S. governments, companies, and individuals,” Ricketts, whom Republican Gov. Jim Pillen recently appointed to fill retiring Sen. Ben Sasse’s seat, said in a statement at the time. “As an app owned by a company based in China, TikTok is legally obligated to provide data from its users to the country’s communist regime upon request.”
“To maintain the security of data owned by the state of Nebraska, and to safeguard against the intrusive cyber activities of China’s communist government, we’ve made the decision to ban TikTok on state devices,” Ricketts added.
2. South Dakota
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem banned “TikTok for state government agencies, employees, and contractors using state devices” through an executive order on Nov. 29, according to a press release.
“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence-gathering operations of nations who hate us,” Noem said. “The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform.”
“Because of our serious duty to protect the private data of South Dakota citizens, we must take this action immediately. I hope other states will follow South Dakota’s lead, and Congress should take broader action, as well,” Noem added.
3. North Carolina
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order on Jan. 12 “prohibiting the use of certain applications and websites on state devices, including computers and mobile phones,” according to a press release.
“It’s important for us to protect state information technology from foreign countries that have actively participated in cyberattacks against the United States,” Cooper said in a press release. “Protecting North Carolina from cyberthreats is vital to ensuring the safety, security, privacy, and success of our state and its people.”
The order calls on “the state Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) to develop a policy within 14 days that prohibits the use of TikTok, WeChat, and potentially other applications on state agency information technology systems in a manner that presents an unacceptable cybersecurity risk,” the statement said.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers banned “TikTok and other potential cybersecurity-threatening technologies on state-issued devices” through an executive order on Jan. 11.
“In the digital age, defending our state’s technology and cybersecurity infrastructure and protecting digital privacy have to be a top priority for us as a state,” Evers said in a press release.
“I trust the professionals who work in this field, and it was important for me to consult with and get advice from experts in law enforcement, cybersecurity, and counterintelligence, including the information technology experts working within [the Department of Administration’s Division of Enterprise Technology], to make the best decision to protect state technologies, and ultimately, the people of Wisconsin,” the governor added.
5. South Carolina
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster penned a letter to Marcia Adams, executive director of the Department of Administration, on Dec. 5, “requesting that the social media platform TikTok be permanently removed, and access blocked from all state government electronic devices that are managed by the Department of Administration.”
In the letter, McMaster also wrote:
Protecting our state’s critical cyber infrastructure from foreign and domestic threats is key to ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our citizens and businesses.
Federal law enforcement and national security officials have warned that TikTok poses a clear and present danger to its users, and a growing bipartisan coalition in Congress is pushing to ban access to TikTok in the United States.
Then-Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, announced on Dec. 6, an “emergency cybersecurity directive to prohibit the use of certain Chinese and Russian-influenced products and platforms for the executive branch of state government, including TikTok,” according to a press release.
“There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives,” said Hogan, whose eight years in office ended Wednesday.
“As the cyber capital of America, Maryland has taken bold and decisive actions to prepare for and address cybersecurity threats. To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us,” he added.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott penned two letters on Dec. 7; one to state House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and another to state agency leaders highlighting “the state of Texas’ responsibility to preserve the safety and cybersecurity of Texans, in addition to the federal government’s responsibility for foreign-policy issues,” according to a press release.
In his letter to Patrick and Phelan, Abbott wrote:
TikTok is a video-sharing mobile application with more than 85 million users in the United States. It belongs to a Chinese company called ByteDance Ltd., which employs Chinese Communist Party members and has a subsidiary that is partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices—including when, where, and how they conduct internet activity—and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government.
On Dec. 8, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order “[directing] that no executive branch employee or agency of the state of Oklahoma shall download or use the TikTok application or visit the TikTok website on government networks or government-issued devices, including state-issued cellphones, computers, or any other device capable of internet connectivity, and that TikTok shall be blacklisted from state networks and state-managed devices.”
In a press release, Stitt said:
Maintaining the cybersecurity of state government is necessary to continue to serve and protect Oklahoma citizens, and we will not participate in helping the Chinese Communist Party gain access to government information.
Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, on her first day in office on Jan. 10, issued an executive order banning the use, installation, or connection to “TikTok on any state network or state-issued information or communications technology device.”
“The challenges posed by China are particularly acute with respect to information and communications technologies. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, China ‘presents the broadest, most active, and persistent cyberespionage threat to U.S. government and private sector networks,’” Sanders’ executive order reads.
The order also reads:
The video application known as TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance Ltd., a Chinese company with significant ties to the Chinese Communist Party, is of particular concern.
TikTok can harvest large amounts of data from devices on which it is installed, including information regarding when, where, and how users interact with the internet.
TikTok has confirmed that China-based employees can access data regarding the Internet activity of people located in the United States.
Republican Gov. Spencer Cox banned TikTok on state-owned devices through an executive order on Dec. 12.
“China’s access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity,” Cox said in a media release. “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.”
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey banned TikTok for both state devices and the state network on Dec. 12.
“Disturbingly, TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users, much of which has no legitimate connection to the app’s supposed purpose of video sharing,” Ivey wrote in a memorandum to the heads of all state agencies. “For example, when users run the TikTok app for the first time, they give TikTok access to information such as their device brand and model, mobile carrier, browsing history, app and file names and types, keystroke patterns and rhythms, wireless connections, and geolocation.”
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves banned TikTok on “all state-issued government devices and the state’s network” on Jan. 11, according to a press release.
“It’s no secret that the Chinese Communist Party is actively trying to steal U.S. intellectual property and Americans’ personal information. It’s a major threat to our national security and critical infrastructure, costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions annually, and jeopardizes American jobs,” Reeves said in the a press release.
“Mississippi isn’t going to sit around waiting for the Chinese Communist Party to steal our state government data, and that’s why I issued this directive. It will help us better protect our state’s sensitive information and critical infrastructure,” Reeves added.
Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin banned TikTok on all Department of State devices, and also called on Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to take similar measures to ban the app on “on all devices owned or leased by the state of Louisiana,” in a letter he sent to Edwards on Dec. 19.
“As secretary of state, I have the serious responsibility of protecting voters’ personally identifiable information, which is why I have taken the step of banning the use of TikTok on all devices owned or leased by my agency,” Ardoin wrote to Edwards.
“I wholeheartedly believe that doing so on a statewide level would protect our data and reaffirm our commitment to privacy protections for our constituents. Therefore, I urge you to issue a directive banning the use of TikTok on our state government’s devices with immediate effect,” Ardoin added.
The Indiana Office of Technology banned TikTok for both the state system and devices on Dec. 7, The Associated Press reported.
According to Graig Lubsen, Indiana Office of Technology spokesman, “the office ‘blocked TikTok from being used in our state system and on our state devices,” The Journal Gazette reported.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order on Dec. 28 that “[banned] the use of the social media platform TikTok on all state-owned devices for Kansas executive branch agencies, boards, and commissions and their respective employees, and prohibits access on the state network,” according to a press release.
“TikTok mines users’ data and potentially makes it available to the Chinese Communist Party—a threat recognized by a growing group of bipartisan leaders across the United States,” Kelly said in the press release.
Kelly issued the executive order “in response to recent warnings from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Communications Commission that user data from the social media platform TikTok is potentially being shared with the Chinese government, posing both a national and cybersecurity threat.”
16. North Dakota
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum issued an executive order on Dec. 13 banning TikTok on “state-owned devices issued by executive branch agencies, citing growing national security concerns,” according to a press release.
“Protecting citizens’ data is our top priority, and our IT professionals have determined, in consultation with federal officials, that TikTok raises multiple flags in terms of the amount of data it collects and how that data may be shared with and used by the Chinese government,” Burgum said.
“Reducing this security risk is the right thing to do, and we would offer [North Dakota Information Technology] support to assist and advise any partner entities that wish to pursue similar measures,” he added.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds banned TikTok on Dec. 13 for “all state-owned devices and [prohibited] state agencies from subscribing to or owning a TikTok account,” according to a press release.
“It is clear that TikTok represents a national security risk to our country, and I refuse to subject the citizens of Iowa to that risk,” Reynolds said in the statement. “They trust us with their personal and confidential information and we will take every step possible to protect it, including from the Chinese government. The safety of Iowans is my [No. 1] priority, and that includes their cybersecurity.”
Republican Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order on Dec. 14 that banned the app “on state-issued devices and networks to protect Idahoans from security threats posed by the communist Chinese government,” according to a press release.
“The communist Chinese government can use TikTok to collect critical information from our state and federal government, and we are taking this step to protect Idahoans and Americans from the sinister motives of a foreign government that does not share our values and seeks to weaken and manipulate our country,” Little said. “This new ban to eliminate TikTok from state-issued devices and networks will help protect national security and Idahoans’ data.”
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis banned TikTok on Aug. 11, 2020, for “Department of Financial Services (DFS) devices and within DFS facilities,” according to a press release.
“My top priority as Florida’s CFO is to protect our state from fraud and scams, including all major cybersecurity threats. As we’ve seen with the recent unprecedented Twitter hacks, we must take bold action now to protect our data and our devices from these very real security risks,” Patronis said.
“The threat TikTok presents far outweighs any benefit the application could provide to official business of the agency, and that is why I have decided to immediately ban the application from DFS devices and use of the app within our facilities,” Patronis added. “With reports of direct ties to the Communist Party of China, TikTok is a major security risk to the state of Florida and to the United States, and it has no place on state devices.”
Republican state Treasurer Stacy Garrity banned TikTok from Treasury Department devices and its systems on Dec. 22.
“Treasury’s computer network is targeted by scammers and criminals every day. TikTok presents a clear danger due to its collection of personal data and its close connection to the communist Chinese government,” Garrity said in a press release. “Banning TikTok from Treasury devices and systems is an important step in our never-ending work to ensure the safety of Pennsylvanians’ hard-earned tax dollars and other important, sensitive information entrusted to Treasury.”
21. New Jersey
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy banned TikTok for both “state provided and managed devices with some exceptions” on Jan. 9.
“Bolstering cybersecurity is critical to protecting the overall safety and welfare of our state,” Murphy said in a press release. “The proactive and preventative measures that we are implementing today will ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and safety of information assets managed by New Jersey state government. This decisive action will ensure the cybersecurity of the state is unified against actors who may seek to divide us.”
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin banned TikTok for “state devices and state-run wireless networks” on Dec. 16, according to a press release.
“TikTok and WeChat data are a channel to the Chinese Communist Party, and their continued presence represents a threat to national security, the intelligence community, and the personal privacy of every single American,” Youngkin said. “We are taking this step today to secure state government devices and wireless networks from the threat of infiltration and ensure that we safeguard the data and cybersecurity of state government.”
23. West Virginia
Republican state Auditor J.B. McCuskey and Republican state Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld banned TikTok on both state networks and devices on Dec. 19, according to a statement on Twitter from McCuskey.
“I am so thankful to work with Senator Weld on this incredibly important initiative. [We] have seen the threat that China and its government poses to our critical infrastructure, and this move is a proactive approach to protect the taxpayers of West Virginia,” McCuskey said in the statement.
24. New Hampshire
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu issued an executive order on Dec. 14 banning TikTok on state issued-devices and networks.
“New Hampshire is joining the growing list of states that have banned TikTok and other Chinese companies from state government devices and networks,” Sununu said, according to a press release. “This move will help preserve the safety, security, and privacy of the citizens of New Hampshire.”
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte banned “TikTok on state equipment and for state business in Montana” on Dec. 16.
“Government’s chief responsibility is keeping its citizens safe and secure. Use of TikTok on state devices poses a significant risk to the security of our state and Montanans’ sensitive data,” Gianforte said, according to a press release.
“Given these grave security concerns, effective immediately, no executive agency, board, commission, or other executive branch entity, official, or employee of the state of Montana shall download or access TikTok on government-issued devices or while connected to the state network,” he added.
Republican Gov. Mark Gordon banned TikTok on Dec. 15 on “all state electronic devices and networks,” according to a press release.
“Maintaining robust cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and Wyoming is committed to identifying threats that could impact public safety,” Gordon said. “The potential for foreign governments to access information collected by TikTok is extremely troubling.”
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp banned the use of TikTok by state executive agencies via a memo to all state agency heads on Dec. 15, Fox Business reported.
“The state of Georgia has a responsibility to prevent any attempt to access and infiltrate its secure data and sensitive information by foreign adversaries such as the [Chinese Communist Party],” Kemp said in the memo.
“The CCP poses an ever-present national security threat to the United States and Georgia. As such, it is our duty to take action to preserve the safety and security of our state against the CCP, entities it controls, and other foreign cyberthreats,” Kemp said, adding:
Effective immediately, all Georgia executive branch agencies, departments, divisions, bureaus, boards, authorities, and commissions are prohibited from using TikTok, WeChat, and Telegram on all systems and devices that are issued, owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the state or used for state business.
The memo explained that “similar threats” to those found with TikTok “have also been identified for Chinese-owned Tencent Holdings (owner of WeChat) and Russian-owned Telegram.”
TikTok was banned on state-owned devices, except “for a law enforcement purpose,” on Jan. 13, Reuters reported.
The social media policy in the state’s employee handbook now includes a section prohibiting the use of TikTok by both agencies and staff members, WHAS-TV in Louisville, Kentucky, reported.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine banned TikTok for “state-owned or state-leased devices” through an executive order on Jan. 8.
“All state agencies, boards, and commissions shall prohibit the following on any state owned or state-leased device capable of accessing the internet: (i) the download and/or use of any social media application, channel, and platform that is owned by an entity located in China and (ii) accessing the website of any social media application, channel, and platform that is owned by an entity located in China,” the executive order said.
“All state agencies, boards, and commissions are prohibited from using social media applications, channels, and platforms that are owned by an entity located in China,” the executive order stated, adding:
Such applications and platforms include, but are not limited to, TikTok, Tencent QQ, Tencent Video, QQ International (QQi), Qzone, WeChat, Weibo, Xiao HongShu, Zhihu, Meituan, Toutiao, Alipay, Xiami Music, Tiantian Music, DingTalk/Ding Ding, Douban, RenRen, Youku/Tudou, Little Red Book, and Zhihu.
Maine Information Technology issued a directive banning TikTok for executive branch employees on “any state-issued or personal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile devices connected to state equipment or systems,” WGME-TV reported.
“As of February 1st, 2023, the use of covered technologies is prohibited for use on any state-issued or personal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile devices connected to state equipment or systems,” the directive said. “If previously installed, any covered technology must be immediately uninstalled to circumvent any exposure of sensitive information. Failure to meet the requirements of this directive may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
The directive also said:
In accordance with MaineIT Cybersecurity Directive 2023-01, the following covered technology is subject to the Directive: TikTok, which describes the social networking service TikTok or any successor application or service developed or provided by ByteDance Limited or an entity owned by ByteDance Limited.
Shawn Nailor, secretary of the Agency of Digital Service and state chief information officer, sent an email to executive branch departments, offices, and agencies dated on Feb. 16 banning TikTok on all state-issued devices, VTDigger reported.
“An agency or agency employee shall not download or use the social networking service TikTok, or any successor application or service developed or provided by ByteDance Limited or an entity owned by ByteDance Limited (‘TikTok’) on any State-owned electronic device,” Nailor said.
“An agency may not sponsor content on TikTok or maintain an agency-branded or agency-sponsored TikTok account. A person or entity contracted with an agency shall not, download or use the TikTok application or visit any TikTok website on any State-owned electronic device,” Nailor said.
A TikTok spokesperson lamented the various states’ moves to ban the app on government-issued devices.
“We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies that will do nothing to advance cybersecurity in their states and are based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok,” the spokesperson told The Daily Signal in an email. “TikTok is loved by millions of Americans, and it is unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, universities, student groups, and sports teams in those states will no longer be able to use TikTok to build communities and share information.”
The statement added:
We are continuing to work with the federal government to finalize a solution that will meaningfully address any security concerns that have been raised at the federal and state level.
These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies—plans that we are well underway in implementing—to further secure our platform in the United States, and we will continue to brief lawmakers on them.
This article might be updated should more states move to ban TikTok for state-issued devices.
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