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Texas Governor Bans TikTok On State-Issued Devices Over National Security Threat

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) has banned state-issued devices from using TikTok as federal officials have warned about the Chinese-based social media app’s threat to national security. The move comes a few days after a similar ban was put in place by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) in his state.

“The preservation of the safety and security of Texas is foremost among the duties of our offices,” Abbott wrote in a letter to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan. “The threat of the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate the United States continues to grow. While the federal government holds the ultimate responsibility for foreign policy issues, the State also has the responsibility and opportunity to protect itself.”

Abbott explained, “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.”

“While TikTok has claimed that it stores U.S. data within the U.S., the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees can have access to U.S. data,” Abbott continued. “It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens. Further, under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work, including data sharing, and TikTok’s algorithm has already censored topics politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, including the Tiananmen Square protests.”

Abbott noted recent warnings from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said he is “extremely concerned” about TikTok’s operations in the United States

“The director of the FBI recently warned that the Chinese government can control TikTok’s content algorithm, allowing it to perpetrate influence operations within the United States,” Abbott wrote. “In fact, the use of TikTok on federal-government devices is already prohibited by agencies like the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security.”

“Effective immediately, I have ordered every state agency in Texas to ban TikTok on any state-issued devices,” Abbott added. “In addition, I have given the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas Department of Information Resources until January 15, 2023, to develop a model plan that state agencies can deploy with respect to the use of TikTok on personal devices. Each state agency will then have until February 15, 2023, to implement its own policy governing the use of TikTok on personal devices, subject to approval by the DPS Cyber Security division.”

“This legislative session, we must pass legislation to safeguard our state against threats like TikTok,” Abbott concluded. “This includes passing legislation to make permanent the directive I have issued to state agencies, making similar requirements applicable to local government, and providing a mechanism where we are able to add additional software or hardware to a prohibited list for government use. We must work together to stop the Chinese government’s efforts to collect, store, and distribute Texans’ data and personal information.”

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