Texas Governor Unveils Plan to Ban TikTok

February 6, 2023

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday unveiled a plan to ban the Chinese-owned video sharing app TikTok from all government-issued devices and networks.

“The security risks associated with the use of TikTok on devices used to conduct the important business of our state must not be underestimated or ignored,” Abbott said in a statement.

He added, “Owned by a Chinese company that employs Chinese Communist Party members, TikTok harvests significant amounts of data from a user’s device, including details about a user’s internet activity.”

Texas is one of more than two dozen states taking legal action against TikTok, including statewide bans of the app on government devices.

In December, Gov. Abbott directed state leaders to remove TikTok from any government-issued devices. The legislation unveiled Monday would expand that ban to include the cellphones, laptops, tablets and desktop computers of Texas state employees or contractors. It also includes restrictions from using TikTok and other prohibited technologies on state-issued internet networks.

The states’ actions follow warnings from FBI Director Chris Wray, who said in November that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control data collection on millions of American users, or to control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.

There’s also been mounting bipartisan pressure in Congress to take legal action regarding TikTok. This past summer, two House Republicans, James Comer of Kentucky and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, pressed TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew for more info on its access to U.S. data, while Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether TikTok misled users about the safety of their data. 

Just last week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) introduced a bill to ban TikTok nationwide. This follows similar legislation last year by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) in the House along with legislation from Rubio in the Senate.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. TikTok has said that it prioritizes its community’s privacy and security and that it is working to address security concerns raised by the U.S., including highlighting its progress on a deal to move American info onto Texas-headquartered Oracle servers.

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