More US States Ban TikTok As Federal Vote Looms

Louisiana, West Virginia latest to ban TikTok on government devices as US Congress prepares federal-level vote this week

US state agencies in Louisiana and West Virginia have banned the use of TikTok on government devices over information security concerns, joining others, as US lawmakers reportedly prepare to vote on the matter at a federal level as soon as this week.

Separately, the state of Washington confirmed it was considering banning the use of TikTok for agency business, which would make it the first Democratic state to do so in what has been a Republican-led movement to limit the use of the popular Chinese-owned short video app.

The moves do not affect the use of TikTok by the more than 100 million Americans who use it on private or company-owned devices.

In 2020 then-president Donald Trump attempted to block new users from downloading the app and to take other measures against TikTok, but the moves were blocked in court.

ByteDance, TikTok
TikTok owner ByteDance. Image credit: ByteDance

State bans

The US government Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has been negotiating a national security agreement to protect the data of US TikTok users, but no deal appears to be immediately on the cards.

Some 19 of the US’ 50 states have now at least partially blocked access to TikTok on government computers, most of the restrictions having been put into place in the past two weeks.

The states, including Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, New Hampshire, Maryland, North Dakota and Utah, all have Republican governors except for Louisiana, where the Republican Secretary of State has banned the app on devices managed by his department.

Washington Technology Solutions, the agency that provides technology services to the state’s agencies, confirmed to Al Jazeera that “Washington, like many states, is reviewing the use of TikTok but has not reached any decision yet”.

Federal vote

The news agency had uncovered evidence that the state was considering a TikTok government ban through public record requests.

TikTok said the company was “disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States”.

The Senate last week passed a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Josh Hawley to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government owned devices.

The ban is set to be included in an omnibus measure to fund US government operations expected to be voted on this week, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.

The proposal was last week backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.