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TikTok Banned From Government Devices in Two US States Over Security Concerns; Huawei, Tencent Also Barred

The governors of Wisconsin and North Carolina on Thursday signed orders banning TikTok on government devices due to cyber security concerns, joining other US states and the federal government in prohibiting the use of the popular video app.

In addition to banning Chinese-owned TikTok from state devices, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said he was banning vendors, products and services from other Chinese companies including Huawei Technologies, Hikvision, Tencent Holdings – the owner of WeChat, ZTE Corp as well as Russian-based Kaspersky Lab.

“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.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an order directing officials to develop a policy within 14 days that prohibits the use of TikTok, WeChat and “potentially other applications” that present cybersecurity risks on state devices.

More than 20 other states have also banned TikTok, owned by Chinese technology conglomerate ByteDance, from state devices including Ohio, New Jersey and Arkansas earlier this week.

TikTok said it was “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 Democratic governors of Wisconsin and North Carolina joined mostly Republican governors who have led the charge to ban TikTok from state devices.

Calls to ban TikTok from government devices gained steam after US FBI Director Christopher Wray said in November it poses national security risks.

Wray flagged the threat that the Chinese government could harness the app to influence users or control their devices.

For three years, TikTok – which has more than 100 million users – has been seeking to assure Washington that the personal data of US citizens cannot be accessed and its content cannot be manipulated by China’s Communist Party or any other entity under Beijing’s influence.

Last month, US President Joe Biden signed into law a government funding bill that included a ban on federal employees from using or downloading TikTok on government-owned devices.

The law gives the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 60 days “to develop standards and guidelines for executive agencies requiring the removal” of TikTok from federal devices. OMB declined to comment Thursday.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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