Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 16, 2022
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The U.S. Senate this week unanimously voted to ban TikTok from government devices out of growing national security concerns. That kind of unanimity in these divided times is rare.
Several states are following suit or considering similar bans.
So where does Gov. Tony Evers stand on TikTok?
Empower Wisconsin asked the governor’s office Thursday. His spokespeople didn’t respond.
His administration certainly is a big fan of the social media app with direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party
Members of Wisconsin’s Republican congressional delegation last week urged Evers to prohibit TikTok on state executive branch devices, and on his own. The governor routinely used the video app during his re-election campaign.
Evers’ flack was dismissive.
“My favorite part about Wisconsin Republicans’ ~we want to work together~ narrative is when they send a formal, three-page letter that could’ve been a phone call just so they leak to press and get stories like this,” tweeted.
Pressed by reporters, Evers office said, “We will continue to defer to the judgment and advice of law enforcement, cybersecurity, and counterintelligence experts regarding this and other evolving cybersecurity issues.”
Well, the judgment is in.
Democrats and Republicans alike, from Sens. Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruze, believe TikTok doesn’t belong on government devices. Nearly every Democrat in congress supported an overwhelmingly bipartisan provision in the 2021 defense policy bill banning federal employees from using the app on any government device. Recently, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (R-Va.) echoed concerns of the Federal Communications Commission and the FBI, which have called for a U.S. ban, as former President Donald Trump did.
Several states have banned or said they will implement policies banning public employees from using TikTok on government devices, including Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Texas. Nebraska issued a ban in 2020.
“It is clear that TikTok represents a national security risk to our country, and I refuse to subject the citizens of Iowa to that risk,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. “They trust us with their personal and confidential information and we will take every step possible to protect it, including from the Chinese government. The safety of Iowans is my number one priority and that includes their cybersecurity.”
Concerns have been building. In 2019, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, paid a nearly $6 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission for collecting personal information from minors.
While U.S. officials have been working on a deal that would keep TikTok operating in America, “TikTok has previously acknowledged that employees based in China can currently access user data, and has also declined to commit to stop sending US user information to China,” CNN reports.
U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI 8th CD) has been leading the charge to boot TikTok from U.S. soil. He and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have introduced legislation banning it nationwide, calling TikTok “digital fentanyl” that is “addicting our kids.”
“This isn’t a partisan issue. TikTok poses a threat to our national security and, at a minimum, belongs nowhere near a government device,” Gallagher said. “Every single U.S. Senator and 13 Governors agree. It’s time for Governor Evers to listen to the warnings from the national security community and wake up to the bipartisan consensus surrounding the TikTok threat. “