By Rebecca Grapevine / Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA – Georgia is joining the growing list of Republican-led states banning TikTok from state-owned phones and laptops, according to a new memo issued by Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday.
All executive agencies and branches should immediately ban the use of TikTok as well as two other social messaging platforms, WeChat and Telegram, on any government-owned devices, the memo says.
“In recent days, information has come to light exposing the depth of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) involvement with TikTok and the resulting threat that TikTok poses to government cybersecurity,” Kemp’s memo states.
The social media platform can track and store personal information that could be turned over to the Chinese government, presenting a threat to Georgia’s security, the memo adds.
Chinese company ByteDance owns TikTok. The Kemp memo states ByteDance employs members of the CCP. It also says that TikTok’s content selection algorithm could be influenced by the Chinese government.
In the past few years, many organizations, including some government agencies, have turned to the popular social media app to share information with Georgians, especially young people who make up the majority of the platform’s audience.
The University of Georgia (@universityofga) and Georgia Tech’s admissions office (@GTAdmission) both have official TikTok channels that remained up on the platform as of Thursday afternoon.
"They would fall under this directive and any use of these platforms would be prohibited on any state-issued devices they have," confirmed Andrew Isenhour, a Kemp spokesperson.
The new Georgia rule also prohibits the use of messaging platform WeChat, which is owned by Tencent Holdings, another Chinese company, and Telegram, which was founded in Russia but is now headquartered in Dubai.
Kemp’s move comes just over a week after state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, said he will introduce legislation to ban TikTok in Georgia, though the bill had not yet been prefiled with the Senate as of Thursday afternoon.
A growing number of Republican-led states have implemented measures similar to the new Georgia rule. These include Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, South Dakota, Maryland, Utah, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill this week to bar federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices. The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The U.S. House would have to approve the bill before Congress adjourns next week in order for it to reach President Joe Biden’s desk.
Many federal agencies, including the departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security have also banned the use of TikTok on government-owned devices.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.