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South Dakota bans TikTok among state employees, contractors over ties to Chinese government

  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed Executive 2022-10 on Thursday, which bans state agencies, employees and contractors from using TikTok on state-owned electronic devices.

  • The order reportedly came in response to “the growing national security threat posed by TikTok due to its data gathering operations on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”

  • For years, Republicans have warned about national security risks posed by the Chinese short video platform, whose Beijing-based parent company ByteDance had previously been accused by Trump administration officials of having a relationship with Beijing authorities.

  • In July, a BuzzFeed investigation of leaked audio recordings revealed that U.S. user data had been repeatedly accessed from China, with one director referring to a Beijing engineer known as “Master Admin” who “has access to everything.”

  • More recently, the FBI raised multiple concerns about the app, including “the possibility that the Chinese government could use [TikTok] to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.”

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Government agencies, employees and contractors in South Dakota are now banned from using TikTok on state-owned devices following an executive order signed on Thursday by Gov. Kristi Noem.

For years, Republicans — led by former President Donald Trump — have warned about national security risks posed by the Chinese short video platform. ByteDance, TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, had previously been accused by Trump administration officials of having a relationship with Beijing authorities.

South Dakota’s Executive Order 2022-10 came in response to “the growing national security threat posed by TikTok due to its data gathering operations on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” according to a news release.

“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us,” said Noem. “The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform.”

In June, a BuzzFeed investigation of leaked audio recordings revealed that data of U.S. TikTok users had been repeatedly accessed from China. One director was recorded referring to a Beijing engineer called “Master Admin” who “has access to everything.”

Speaking to lawmakers on Nov. 15, FBI Director Chris Wray raised multiple concerns about the app, such as “the possibility that the Chinese government could use [TikTok] to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.” Wray said China could also “control software on millions of devices,” which could “technically compromise” them, Reuters quoted him as saying.

Aside from state agencies and employees, Noem’s ban applies to “persons and entities who contract with the state, commissions, and authorities or agents thereof.” The law specifically prohibits “downloading or using the TikTok application or visiting the website on state-owned or state-leased electronic devices capable of internet connectivity.”

“Because of our serious duty to protect the private data of South Dakota citizens, we must take this action immediately. I hope other states will follow South Dakota’s lead, and Congress should take broader action, as well,” Noem added.

TikTok, for its part, has long denied allegations that it spies for the Chinese government. It is currently negotiating with the Biden administration on a potential divestment from ByteDance that would allow it to continue its U.S. operations amid privacy concerns, as per the New York Post.

 

Featured Image via Gov. Kristi Noem, Pixabay

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