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Republican Officials Declare War on TikTok

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday imposed a ban on using TikTok for all government-issued devices, becoming the latest Republican governor concerned that the Chinese-owned app could pose a national security threat.

According to a release from the governor’s office, Abbott wrote letters to several state officials regarding the government’s “responsibility to preserve the safety and cybersecurity of Texans,” and said the video-sharing app could allow the Chinese Communist Party to collect “critical U.S. information.”

“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 wrote in one of the letters.

TikTok at the Paris Games Week 2022
The TikTok logo is displayed during Paris Games Week 2022 on November 3. Some Republican officials have imposed TikTok bans on state-owned devices over fears that the app could pose a national security threat.
Chesnot/Getty Images

Officials have long speculated that the social media app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, could share its users’ data with the Chinese government, potentially leaking U.S. intelligence. Abbott’s announcement arrived one day after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a similar ban, which also prohibited the use of Russian-based products on state-owned devices.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita also filed two separate lawsuits against TikTok on Wednesday, accusing ByteDance of making “false claims” about its app. According to a press release, Rokita argues in one of the suits that TikTok “lured children onto the platform” by misleading users that the app only contains “infrequent” obscene content, such as profanity or sexual content. In the second suit, Rokita alleges that the social app company has “deceived” its users to think their information is safe from the Chinese government.

While the app is not owned by the Chinese Communist Party, Abbott said in his letter that users’ data stored within the app could still be provided to China’s government under a 2017 National Intelligence Law, which requires all businesses to assist the government in “intelligence work.”

TikTok has grown exponentially since its global launch in 2018, with nearly 136.5 million American users as of April 2022. Several U.S. officials have since raised concerns regarding the app’s potential security risks, including former President Donald Trump, who had debated banning it in 2020.

Last month, Brendan Carr, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), recommended that the government ban TikTok from operating in the U.S., claiming there wasn’t “a world in which you could come up with sufficient protection” on users’ data from ending up “back into the hands” of the Chinese Communist Party.

However, several roadblocks would prevent such a ban from occurring, given that the FCC has no jurisdiction on the matter. Companies like Apple and Google also cannot be forced to ban the app in their app stores under the First Amendment, and even a move by the Pentagon would not have international jurisdiction over the site.

Newsweek has reached out to TikTok for comment.

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