Though it has been well established for some time that TikTok is a tool of espionage that is controlled and used by the Chinese Communist Party, U.S. leaders have been slow to do anything about it. But that could be changing.
Over the past few weeks, a number of governors have moved to ban the app from all state devices, citing the cybersecurity risks the platform presents. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt have all signed orders blocking TikTok from state electronic devices. The U.S. military has also banned the app on all military devices, and in 2021, Congress voted to bar federal employees from accessing the app on government devices.
In a statement this week, Hogan said: “There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives. To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us.”
Each of these governors is a Republican, but the issue tends to draw bipartisan consensus. Last month, for example, FBI Director Christopher Wray urged the Biden administration to take TikTok more seriously, warning that China is able to use the app to collect data on American users. And in 2020, a number of House Democrats joined Senate Republicans in calling for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, accusing TikTok of violating children’s privacy online.
There seems to be no sense of urgency, however, when it comes to addressing this threat. President Joe Biden repealed a Trump-era order that sought to ban TikTok altogether, instead calling for a broad review of the platform and its national security risks. And all the while, China is using the app to collect data on U.S. citizens and wreak havoc on the mental and social development of children.
Surely, if we can all agree on one thing, it should be this: Chinese spyware in any form has no place in the U.S.