AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all Texas state agencies to ban TikTok on government-issued devices, citing the threat of the Chinese Communist Party gaining access to U.S. information and infrastructure.
In letters to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan and state agency leaders, the governor said his office had “gained information about growing threats posed by TikTok that require immediate action to protect our State’s sensitive information and critical infrastructure.”
“TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices – including when, where and how they conduct Internet activity – and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” reads one of the letters. “While TikTok has claimed that it stores U.S. data within the U.S., the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees can have access to U.S. data. It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens. Further, under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work including data sharing, and TikTok’s algorithm has already censored topics politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, including the Tiananmen Square protests.”
With more than 85 million users in the U.S., the video-sharing mobile application TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that employs Chinese Communist Party members and has a subsidiary partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party, Abbott noted.
State agency leaders are ordered to immediately ban their officers and employees from downloading or using TikTok on any government-issued device, including cellphones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers and all other devices with internet connectivity. The policy is to be strictly enforced by the agencies’ IT departments, Abbott said.
Regarding TikTok on personal devices, Abbott said Texas DPS and Texas Department of Information Resources will develop a model plan for other state agencies by Jan. 15, 2023. Each agency will have until Feb. 15, 2023, to implement its own policy.
The governor said his office was ready to assist in codifying and implementing any necessary cybersecurity reforms when the 88th Texas Legislature convenes next year, including passing legislation to make his directives on TikTok permanent.