Walz takes ‘holistic’ view of TikTok while states and feds move to ban Chinese app

More states every week take action to ban the controversial Chinese app TikTok on state government phones and devices due to security concerns over the vulnerability of state and private data. The issue has picked up so much momentum that even Washington politicians and the New York Times have taken notice of the growing backlash.

In the past several weeks, at least 14 states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices. In Congress, lawmakers are expected to vote this week on a sweeping spending bill that includes a ban of TikTok on all federal government devices. A separate bipartisan bill, which was introduced in Congress last week, would ban the app for everyone in the United States. In addition, Indiana’s attorney general has sued TikTok, accusing the company of being deceptive about the security and privacy risks the app poses.

What started a few years ago as an effort from the Trump administration has evolved into an increasingly bipartisan issue. Politicians of both parties share concerns that the app could surveil users in the United States and put sensitive data, including location information, into the hands of China’s government.

So far three of Minnesota’s neighboring states have taken steps to prohibit the use of TikTok on state agency devices — North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. In Wisconsin, GOP Congressman Mike Gallagher has played a key role in what’s becoming a bipartisan effort to press the Pentagon and other federal agencies to also ditch TikTok.

“This is a widespread concern at this point — it’s not just Republicans, it’s not just Democrats,” said Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, who last week joined Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, a Republican, and other lawmakers in announcing legislation to ban TikTok in the United States.

“It’s going to get even louder over the next year,” he added, “unless significant changes are made with regard to how TikTok is run in the United States and its ownership structure has adjusted.”

Meanwhile, there appears to be little urgency regarding the Chinese app’s potential threat to the state of Minnesota. When recently asked about TikTok, Gov. Tim Walz took a “holistic” approach, equating the supposed dangers posed by the now uncensored social media platform Twitter with the Chinese threat, according to Forum.

Asked Monday [Dec. 12] if he had planned to ban TikTok from Minnesota-issued devices, Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, told reporters he had directed his administration to assess the issue.

“Our whole team I think is looking at social media holistically. The issue around Twitter and kind of the message that’s now there that can be somewhat dangerous. And then the issue of TikTok, of course, with the connections to the Chinese government,” the governor said. “I’ve asked our team to start thinking about that, put together some recommendations around that. I think this is an ever-evolving area.”

Meantime, the top elected officials in our neighboring states mince no words when it comes to evaluating the risks posed by TikTok.

“Protecting citizens’ data is our top priority, and our IT professionals have determined, in consultation with federal officials, that TikTok raises multiple flags in terms of the amount of data it collects and how that data may be shared with and used by the Chinese government,” Burgum said in a Tuesday news release.

South Dakota banned the app Nov. 29. Gov. Kristi Noem said in a news release announcing the change that her state would have “no part in the intelligence-gathering operations of nations who hate us.”

“The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform,” the release said.

Perhaps the latest reports of FBI agents colluding with Twitter’s previous management to suppress political opponents will convince the Walz administration to rethink its holistic approach to social media threats. Until then, Minnesota will lag even further behind other states in protecting against the threat to our state government and personal data.