RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As more states moved this week to ban TikTok on government-owned devices, some leading Republicans in the General Assembly say they’ll push for a ban after the legislative session begins if Gov. Roy Cooper (D) does not take that step through an executive order.
New Jersey and Ohio became the latest states Monday to implement such a ban, joining more than 20 other states and the federal government, according to Government Technology.
“The problem lies in what information is being shared with foreign governments, that is first and foremost, and also bad actors,” said state Representative Jason Saine (R-Lincoln). “If our systems were accessed and that sensitive citizen data was somehow leaked out, it could be very problematic. So, we want to make sure that’s not happening. We want to do that with all software, quite frankly.”
Saine and Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) wrote in a letter to Gov. Cooper late last month “This is a matter of national security, and it is imperative that action be taken swiftly and decisively.”
Last month, FBI director Chris Wray shared his concerns about the ability of the Chinese government to access data.
“Its parent company is controlled by the Chinese government, and it gives them the potential to leverage the app in ways that I think should concern us,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for TikTok did not address the potential for a ban in North Carolina specifically but wrote, “Politicians with national security concerns should encourage the Administration to conclude its national security review of TikTok. The agreement under review will meaningfully address any security concerns that have been raised at both the federal and state level. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies — plans that we are well underway in implementing — to further secure our platform in the United States, and we will continue to brief lawmakers on them.”
Saine said the state House and Senate are prepared to work together to pass a bill to ban TikTok, but that he’s also spoken to the secretary of the Dept. of Information Technology who indicated to him they were working with the Governor’s office on the legal language.
Mary Scott Winstead, a spokesperson for Gov. Cooper, said, “The state is constantly updating guidance to ensure cyber security and is reviewing state government use of TikTok and considering potential additional safety measures.”
Saine noted the NCDOT’s use of TikTok for promotional videos and suggested that perhaps there could be a workaround to continue to allow that but not utilizing state government devices to do so.
Justin Sherman, an expert on cybersecurity at Duke University, while the data TikTok collects is not much different than other similar apps it still raises unique concerns.
“When we’re talking about the Chinese government’s ability to request data from companies in China, they have a lot more freedom to do so,” he said. “The real concern to me with TikTok is the content and the extent to which because of that Chinese connection there could be potential influence put on how the platform moderates, things it promotes or takes down.”