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Monday, January 30, 2023
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Gov. Tony Evers plans to ban TikTok on state-owned devices after talks with the FBI and state emergency management officials.

Evers to ban TikTok on state devices as early as next week

Wisconsin will join 19 other U.S. states that have already banned the app in some capacity amid growing concerns over TikTok’s data privacy

 Gov. Tony Evers confirmed plans Friday to ban TikTok on all state-owned devices via executive order following privacy concerns about the video-sharing app.

Evers plans to implement the executive order banning TikTok from state devices next week, spokesperson Britt Cudaback said in an email. 

“We’ve consulted with FBI folks and our Emergency Management folks and we came to the conclusion that it’s the best idea,” Evers told WISN-TV Friday.

The governor’s decision follows growing nationwide concerns about TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, which is based in China. Chinese companies must provide data to the Chinese government upon request, leaving some American officials worried the Chinese government could obtain sensitive information from accounts on U.S. government devices. 

Evers first told reporters he was considering a TikTok ban on state devices late last month, according to the Cap Times.  He believes that the Wisconsin ban will not impact a large number of users. 

“Out of the thousands and thousands of state employees that we have, I think there’s … between 10 and 20 people that might have (TikTok) on their phones,” Evers told the Cap Times Dec. 29.

It is unclear whether the ban will apply to the University of Wisconsin-System, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday.

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, who represents Wisconsin’s 8th District, applauded Evers’ move in a statement Friday. A leading TikTok critic, Gallagher previously described the app as an addicting “digital fentanyl” that collects Americans’ data and censors their news. 

“This app belongs nowhere near any part of our government and I’m glad Governor Evers finally made the decision to ban TikTok on state devices,” Gallagher said. 

Gallagher, along with U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (R-Ill.), introduced legislation to ban TikTok in the United States last month. 

“At a time when the Chinese Communist Party and our other adversaries abroad are seeking any advantage they can find against the United States through espionage and mass surveillance, it is imperative that we do not allow hostile powers to potentially control social media networks that could be easily weaponized against us,” Krishnamoorthi said Dec. 13.

TikTok is already banned on all devices owned by the federal government. President Joe Biden signed the ban into law on Dec. 29 as part of a $1.7 trillion omnibus congressional spending bill.

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Gallagher also asked Gov. Evers to “recognize the threat posed” by TikTok and delete his campaign’s TikTok account Friday.

Evers’ campaign runs a TikTok account, @tony4wi, but the governor does not operate his own professional or personal account. A handful of state representatives, including Democratic Reps. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) and Francesca Hong (D-Madison), have TikTok accounts on personal devices.

Wisconsin joins at least 19 other U.S. states that already have some form of TikTok ban on government devices as of Dec. 22, according to the National Law Review. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita even took the step to sue TikTok in early December, citing concerns about security and effects on young users.

“At the very least, the company owes consumers the truth about the age-appropriateness of its content and the insecurity of the data it collects on users,” Rokita said in a Dec. 7 press release.

TikTok disagreed with the sentiment of the proposed legislation, according to CNN. A spokesperson for the company described it as a “politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.” 

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