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Virginia Governor bans TikTok on state-issued devices: 'A channel to the Chinese Communist Party'

Posted at 3:55 PM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 17:38:02-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has issued a ban on TikTok and some other Chinese-owned apps and websites on state government technology.

“TikTok and WeChat data are a channel to the Chinese Communist Party, and their continued presence represents a threat to national security, the intelligence community, and the personal privacy of every single American,” Governor Youngkin said in a statement. “We are taking this step today to secure state government devices and wireless networks from the threat of infiltration and ensure that we safeguard the data and cybersecurity of state government.”

Executive Order #24 bans TikTok, WeChat, and any other app developed by ByteDance Limited or Tencent Holdings Limited on state government devices and wireless (WIFI) networks and requires businesses who contract with the state government to also prohibit the use of those applications on state-owned devices or IT infrastructure.

The ban applies to all Executive Offices and Executive Branch Agencies.

“All Americans must be vigilant to stop infiltration by the CCP and all hostile governments and entities who wish the United States harm,” Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears (R - Virginia) said in a statement.

The move received support from U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Virginia.)

"As a former governor and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I’m glad to see that Virginia has banned TikTok on government devices," Warner said in a statement. "TikTok has the stamp of approval of the Chinese Communist Party and it poses a serious national security threat due to its data collection practices and its ability to reach and manipulate Americans. I hope to see more states take action to keep our government technology out of the CCP’s reach.”

Virginia joins North Dakota, South Dakota, Maryland, Nebraska, and South Carolina in issuing TikTok bans of one type or another.

TikTok said in a statement Wednesday that it's "disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok. It is unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, and universities on TikTok in those states will no longer be able to use it to build communities and connect with constituents.”

The U.S. armed forces also have prohibited the app on military devices.

Former President Donald Trump issued blanket-style orders against Chinese tech companies, but the White House under President Joe Biden has replaced them with a narrower approach. U.S. officials and the company are now in talks over a possible agreement that would resolve American security concerns.

A researcher with the conservative Heritage Foundation last month called on government officials to ban TikTok from operating entirely in the United States. And last week, FBI Director Chris Wray said China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations.

Still, some experts say the threat is overstated.

In a Nov. 14 commentary for the Strategic Technologies Program, former diplomat and cybersecurity expert James A. Lewis said TikTok’s national security risk is “easily exaggerated.”

“Intelligence agencies routinely scrape social media to collect biographical information and do not need ownership of TikTok (or any other social media platform) to do this,” Lewis wrote. “The question is, how much more does China obtain by having access to TikTok data that is not publicly available? There is probably some benefit, but it is likely small.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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