Georgia, NH latest states to ban TikTok from state computers

ATLANTA (AP) — Govt. Georgia’s Brian Kemp and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu immediately banned the use of TikTok and popular messaging apps from all computing devices controlled by their state governments on Thursday, saying the Chinese government may be able to access to users’ personal information.

The two Republican governors banned the WeChat messaging app and other apps owned by Chinese company Tencent. Sununu went further by banning apps owned by Chinese company Alibaba as well as telecoms equipment and smartphones made by Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

Kemp has also banned Telegram, saying its Russian control poses similar risks.

“The State of Georgia has a responsibility to prevent attempts to access and infiltrate its secure data and sensitive information by foreign adversaries such as the CCP,” Kemp wrote in a memo, using an acronym for the Chinese Communist Party. “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 cyber threats.”

Sununu said the ban “will help preserve the safety, security and privacy of New Hampshire citizens.”

Kemp cited FBI Director Chris Wray’s comments earlier this month that China may be using the app to collect data about its users that could be used for spying operations.

Sununu ordered state agencies to remove any prohibited software or hardware within 30 days.

Kemp and Sununu are among at least 13 governors to take such action, part of a wave that also includes calls for Congress to ban the use of programs from federal government computers.

Some agencies reacted quickly. Within an hour, the Georgia Department of Transportation posted a farewell video on TikTok to its 2,834 followers, saying, “Follow us on Instagram, we won’t be posting on TikTok anymore!” Thank you all for the engagement.” The department had uploaded more than 80 videos since October 2021.

Andrew Isenhour, a spokesman for Kemp, said the guidelines to be released by the Georgia Technology Authority later Thursday would include exceptions that would allow law enforcement and prosecutors to access the platforms with permission. special.

But the ban would also apply to state colleges and universities, many of which use TikTok to woo potential new students and communicate with current students and athletic fans. At least 20 Georgia public universities and four-year colleges appear to have TikTok accounts, although some have never posted. Valdosta State University, for example, appears to have eight separate accounts.

Other states that have issued bans including Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Utah .

The US Senate passed a bill in 2020 to ban TikTok, but it never passed the House. Other bills to regulate or ban TikTok and other apps are also pending in Congress. The US Armed Forces have banned the app on military devices.

Critics say they fear the Chinese government could access critical information through the app and use it to spread disinformation or propaganda.

While there has been much debate over whether the Chinese government is actively collecting TikTok data, observers say TikTok should comply with any potential request from Chinese security and intelligence requests to hand over data, because the owner of the company, ByteDance, is a Chinese company.

ByteDance moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020.

TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown told The Associated Press earlier this month that the bans “are largely fueled by misinformation about our business.”

TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas, based in Los Angeles, said the company protects all US user data and Chinese government officials do not have access to it.

Former President Donald Trump issued blanket orders against Chinese tech companies that sought to block new users from downloading WeChat and TikTok in 2020, but lost in court. President Joe Biden has taken a narrower approach, ordering a Commerce Department review of security concerns. US officials and the company are currently in talks on a possible deal that would address US security concerns.

Last month, a researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation called on government officials to ban TikTok from operating entirely in the United States. But some other experts say the threat is overstated and China derives little benefit from TikTok information that is not publicly available.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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Associated Press reporter Kathy McCormack in Concord, NH, contributed to this story.

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