The Dallas Morning News

Why states are targeting popular app

Officials voice concerns about cybersecur­ity, influence on its users

- By SARAH BAHARI Staff Writer Twitter: @sarahbfw

A movement to ban Tiktok in the U.S. is growing over cybersecur­ity concerns.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a plan Monday to implement a statewide ban on the popular social media platform.

Nearly 20 states — including Maryland and Utah — have already banned the app from government-issued devices. In December, the Congress voted to ban Tiktok from devices issued by the federal government.

The video-sharing app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, has soared to prominence since its debut in 2016. It now has more than 100 million users in the U.S. alone.

But state and federal authoritie­s have sounded alarms over cybersecur­ity and the potential for espionage by China.

For the uninitiate­d, Tiktok allows users to create and share short videos on just about any topic.

People have used the platform to poke fun at a Plano megachurch’s extravagan­t Christmas production, capture children’s joy seeing The Little Mermaid’s Black Ariel for the first time, encourage people to cook chicken drenched in Nyquil and show off beautiful butter boards.

Users sing, dance, chat about hobbies, play practical jokes. It’s a creative free-for-all.

Users navigate the app like Facebook and Instagram, by scrolling up and down through a feed. And just like those sites, people comment, share and like videos.

‘Our values’

Concerns over cybersecur­ity have prompted attempts to crack down on the platform.

FBI Director Christophe­r Wray recently said the app is controlled by “a government that doesn’t share our values.” Wray said that China could use the app to both collect sensitive data on Americans and spread propaganda through its recommenda­tion algorithm. Tiktok is already banned on U.S. military devices.

In an order issued in early December, Abbott said the state has the responsibi­lity and opportunit­y to protect itself.

“The threat of the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate the United States continues to grow on multiple fronts,” Abbott wrote to the heads of state agencies.

At issue is a law in China that requires companies like Bytedance to comply with requests from the government to hand over their data.

Company speaks

Tiktok spokesman Jamal Brown said the concerns driving bans “are largely fueled by misinforma­tion about our company.”

“We are always happy to meet with state policymake­rs to discuss our privacy and security practices,” Brown said. “We are disappoint­ed that the many state agencies, offices, and universiti­es that have been using Tiktok to build communitie­s and connect with constituen­ts will no longer have access to our platform.”

Vanessa Pappas, Tiktok chief operating officer, said the company protects all American users’ data and that Chinese government officials have no access to it.

‘For you’ feature

This month, Tiktok announced it will soon start explaining to users why it is recommendi­ng a particular video to them. A new feature, called “For You” is part of the company’s plan to be more transparen­t about its algorithm.

Yes. Former President Donald Trump attempted to block new U.S. users from downloadin­g Wechat and Tiktok in 2020, which would have effectivel­y blocked the use of these apps in the United States, but lost a series of court battles.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden withdrew the Trump executive order that sought to ban new Tiktok downloads. Biden also ordered a Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by Tiktok, Wechat and others.

 ?? 2022 File Photo/the Associated Press ?? The popular app Tiktok has already been banned from government-issued devices in nearly 20 states.
2022 File Photo/the Associated Press The popular app Tiktok has already been banned from government-issued devices in nearly 20 states.

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