S. Dakota bans TikTok from government devices

by Jacob Fuller

Marion Bae, FISM News


In the latest blow to social media giant TikTok, South Dakota Gov. Kristy Noem (Rep) has banned the application from all state-owned devices, citing a growing national security threat.

Gov. Noem signed an executive order (2022-10) on Tuesday that will ban all South Dakota state government agencies, employees, and contractors from using TikTok on state-owned or state-leased devices. The official press release for the decision mentions TikTok’s potential to be used as a data-gathering operation for the Chinese government.

“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us,” Gov. Kristi Noem said, “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.”

The executive order goes into effect immediately and prohibits downloading or using the TikTok mobile application and visiting the TikTok website on state devices.

“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.

While Gov. Noem is not the first to criticize TikTok and its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, she has just passed one of few legislations restricting the social media platform.

The U.S. Navy passed the first restriction on TikTok in 2019, which banned the platform from being used on government-issued devices after a “Cyber Awareness Message” from the Pentagon. The U.S. Army quickly passed similar measures.

Talks of a ban have also reached the executive branch as both former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden have discussed the App.

Before President Trump left office, he had made moves to bar Apple and Google from offering the TikTok App on their platforms, which would prevent new app downloads. This measure was blocked by a U.S. District Judge shortly before it was due to take effect.

Trump’s efforts to have TikTok sold to a U.S.-owned corporation also never came to fruition, and the Biden administration did not continue with these plans.

In June of 2021, Biden issued an executive order which overturned Trump’s three prior executive orders which focused on addressing national security risks related to American use of Chinese applications, including TikTok and WeChat.

Biden also asked two federal appeals courts to drop challenges the Justice Department filed regarding the court’s decision to block Trump’s ban on new app downloads.

While the Biden Administration has made no strong moves to restrict TikTok, support for a TikTok ban seems to be traversing party lines. Last month, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement to The Sydney Morning Herald, “This is not something you would normally hear me say, but Donald Trump was right on TikTok years ago.”

“If your country uses Huawei, if your kids are on TikTok … the ability for China to have undue influence is a much greater challenge and a much more immediate threat than any kind of actual, armed conflict,” Warner added.

Sen. Warner, along with Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), had previously urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to carry out a formal investigation on TikTok and parent company ByteDance. They cited reports of executives and engineers residing in China able to repeatedly access the private user data of Americans.

With bipartisan support and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, further measures to restrict or ban TikTok could be on the horizon.