To limit security risks from the Chinese Communist Party, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new plan this week instructing state agencies on how to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from state-issued devices and agency internet networks.
TikTok, which currently has more than 85 million users in the United States, is owned by the Chinese media company ByteDance. ByteDance employs Chinese Communist Party members and has a subsidiary partially owned by the country’s communist party, leading some to raise concerns that the app poses a security risk for the U.S. and Texas.
Last year, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray said TikTok harvests users’ data and cautioned that the Chinese Communist Party could use the information for espionage. Wray also raised concerns that ByteDance can alter the platform’s algorithm and “manipulate content.”
In December 2022, Abbott echoed Wray’s concerns and ordered all state agencies to ban TikTok from state-issued devices, warning that the app may expose Texas officials to foreign surveillance.
This week, Abbott announced a new “Model Security Plan for Prohibited Technologies,” which instructs state agencies on how to ban and prevent the use of TikTok or other prohibited technologies on state-issued devices. Abbott’s plan also prevents state employees from using banned technologies on agency internet networks.
The ban also impacts public universities, leading some, including the University of Texas System, to ban students from accessing TikTok while connected to the university’s internet.
Abbott pointed to TikTok’s potential as a security risk to justify his statewide ban.
“The security risks associated with the use of TikTok on devices used to conduct the important business of our state must not be underestimated or ignored,” said Abbott. “Owned by a Chinese company that employs Chinese Communist Party members, TikTok harvests significant amounts of data from a user’s device, including details about a user’s internet activity.”
It is critical that state agencies and employees are protected from the vulnerabilities presented by the use of this app and other prohibited technologies as they work on behalf of their fellow Texans.
Abbott’s plan follows a push from Republican legislators to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from purchasing American land.
State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) filed a measure that would “prohibit any future purchase of or otherwise acquiring title to real property in the state of Texas by governments or entities affiliated with these countries or their citizens.” The legislation included Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea in the ban.
As tensions with China rose when the U.S. shot down a potential Chinese spy balloon after it was discovered floating over U.S. territory last week, lawmakers continued calling for increased security measures against the Chinese Communist Party.
Abbott promoted his statewide TikTok ban as one way for Texas to prevent interference from the CCP.
“Texans, especially our state agencies and employees, must be protected from having sensitive information shared with the Chinese Communist Party,” said Abbott. “We cannot ignore this security threat.”