Governor Walz needs to ban TikTok from state government devices

This is a guest post from Caleb Larson, a member of American Experiment’s Young Leaders Council.

Governors across the country are taking steps to prevent TikTok from being used or downloaded on government-owned devices. TikTok poses a grave threat to the data on these devices and their owners. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can too easily weaponize the mass amounts of data that the application is able to obtain. Unfortunately, Gov. Tim Walz is dragging his feet and ignoring the nation-state spyware that threatens the security of state data and more importantly, the citizens that data represents.

As of January 16th, thirty-two states have taken steps to address the threat of TikTok. Nine states even go as far as banning applications in addition to TikTok that are influenced by the CCP. Both North and South Dakota and Iowa have already banned TikTok from state-issued devices. Wisconsin bans not only TikTok but also WeChat. Minnesota, however, stands out amongst its neighbors: no action on this issue has even been proposed in the state legislature.

Minnesota also trails far behind the federal government. Congress included its own ban on TikTok on federal government devices in the recently passed spending bill. Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray found that TikTok made user data vulnerable because of the obvious influence that the CCP has on businesses operating out of China.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ ban came after a meeting with the FBI, in which he learned about the risks the application poses to both privacy and security. The Federal Communications Commission issued a similar warning that user data is at risk of being shared with the CCP. These fears were confirmed when the data of two U.S. journalists was used inappropriately late last year by Chinese employees to find information on potential leakers.

Why is it then that Walz is seemingly doing nothing to safeguard his constituents’ data? On December 12, when asked if he was going to do anything about TikTok, Walz told reporters he had “asked [his] team to start thinking about that.” What exactly is there to think about? An adversary of the U.S. has malign influence over an application that is known to collect major amounts of user data, and the FBI is warning that the CCP can weaponize this data. Walz is actively ignoring the preponderance of evidence pointing to the cybersecurity threat that TikTok poses to his citizens’ data.

Walz also raised an equivalency with Twitter, saying there was a “somewhat dangerous” message coming from the app and social media as a whole. He notably left out the dangerous adjective when referencing TikTok and its “connections to the Chinese government.”

It is clear that Walz does not take these connections seriously. In a TikTok posted by oneminutetours, Governor Walz said he is on TikTok “way too much” and the application is “authentic” in providing accurate information.

The time for needless reviews and brainstorming sessions has passed. The threat of data abuse by the CCP increases every day that TikTok is allowed on state owned devices. Gov. Walz stands alone among his peers with his inaction, even among fellow Democrats like Gov. Evers. He should immediately take action to ban the use of TikTok in the state government. If his team needs anything additional to think about, Walz should have them consider banning additional CCP influenced applications.