More US states ban TikTok over spying fears

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TikTok, a popular social media application, best known for viral dance crazes and short videos, is now facing growing pushback at the state level in the United States.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a China-based company, which members of the Senate believe may share information with the Chinese Government and spy on its users.

The US Senate on Wednesday passed by voice vote a bill to bar federal employees from using Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok on government-owned devices. Now, more and more US states are banning the use of TikTok on government-managed devices, with state agencies in Louisiana and West Virginia becoming the latest to do so, Reuters reported.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said he banned the app on all devices his agency owns, citing security threats. West Virginia State Auditor JB McCuskey said he did the same for his agency.

Governors of Virginia and Georgia have also taken action against the company, with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin issuing an executive order on Friday banning TikTok and Chinese social media app WeChat from state-run devices and wireless networks, a report in Cnet stated. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp released a similar order, banning TikTok from state government devices.

Around 19 of the 50 US states have now at least partially blocked TikTok access on government computers. In the past three weeks, at least seven states said they will bar public employees from using the app on government devices, including Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Texas, CNN reported.

The state of Indiana announced two lawsuits against TikTok accusing the Chinese-owned platform of misrepresenting its approach to age-appropriate content and data security. It has also been alleged that the platform ‘lured children’ into content on the app that contained sexual content, profanity or drug references.

Most Congress members last week proposed a nationwide ban on Tiktok, raising concerns that it is a tool that might be used for purposes that harm US national security.

About 65 per cent of attempted connections to TikTok have been blocked this month on devices managed by Jamf’s public sector customers worldwide, Reuters said in a report. Jamf sells software to organizations to enable filtering and security measures on iPhones and other Apple devices.

Amid the calls to ban the app, TikTok has released a statement saying that it is ‘disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.’A TikTok spokesperson says bans of the app are ‘largely fueled by misinformation about our company.’

In 2020, the Trump administration banned TikTok from many government-issued phones and the military. Since then, the Biden administration has upheld that ban while investigating the app.

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