On Wednesday, Texas became the fourth state to ban TikTok on state-issued devices amid federal officials sounding the alarm that the Chinese-based social media app threatens national security.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott sent letters to state agency leaders warning that the social media platform risks the safety and cybersecurity of Texans.
“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,” Abbott said in a news release.
Growing security concerns over the social media platform have caught lawmakers’ attention recently after the Federal Communications Commission said the government agency could not regulate the social media app or control American data from flowing back to Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which requires companies to share its data upon request under the country’s 2017 National Intelligence Law.
Chinese tech giant ByteDance owns TikTok, which currently has more than 200 million downloads in the United States.
Heeding warning signs from federal officials, Abbott took action against state employees using the platform following a growing bipartisan coalition in Congress that continues to push for a national ban on TikTok.
“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 wrote. “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,” he added.
TikTok has now been banned on state devices in Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, and South Dakota.
On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and other Wisconsin lawmakers sent a letter to Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers calling for similar action in the Badger State, asking him to “ban TikTok from Wisconsin government devices and to lead by example and delete TikTok from your own devices.”
In Arkansas, Republican state Sen. Gary Stubblefield filed a bill on Monday that would enact a similar TikTok ban on state devices.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced two lawsuits against TikTok on Wednesday over concerns about data sharing and targeting children with sexual content, profanity, drugs, and other mature content.
At the federal level, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced legislation last month to ban the app in the U.S.
Vanessa Pappas, a TikTok executive, told U.S. Congress earlier this year that the social media app was making “progress toward a final agreement with the U.S. government to further safeguard U.S. user data and fully address U.S. national security interests,” according to Reuters.
Concerns about the Chinese-based app reach back to 2020 when then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order that sought to ban the use of TikTok in the U.S.
The order was to take effect 45 days later but was not implemented following a series of legal challenges. President Joe Biden revoked the executive order in June 2021.
Dillon Burroughs contributed to this report.