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Mass. lawmakers look to ban TikTok on government devices




Politics

“The Commonwealth should be in line with the Federal Government on this issue. The Federal Government would not have passed this measure if they did not think that the security of American’s data was at risk.”

TikTok has come under increased scrutiny from American officials for its ties to China. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press, file

A group of Massachusetts lawmakers are hoping to ban TikTok on government-issued devices, a move that comes on the heels of similar bans being enacted around the country and in the federal government.

The bill that would enact such a change was filed by Rep. Mike Soter, a Republican on Jan. 11. Four other representatives have cosponsored the bill. 

The goal, according to Soter, is to protect the state from possible security risks tied to the Chinese government. 

“The owners of Tik Tok clearly state that the Chinese Government has the rights to all data tracked. We need to protect the state’s residents not only from the Chinese Laws but other countries of concern that were stated in this bill and the Federal bill that Congress passed,” Soter said in a statement to Boston.com. “This would ensure that countries of concern would not be able to gain access to secure data maintained by the state, county, and municipal agencies.”

Soter emphasized that the legislation would not infringe on the private use of apps like TikTok on personal devices, and only government-issued devices given to employees would be impacted. 

The massively popular video-sharing app is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. A group of ByteDance employees at one point had a plan to use TikTok to monitor the locations of some specific American citizens, Forbes reported in October. FBI Director Chris Wray raised concerns about TikTok in December, saying that Chinese officials could control the app’s recommendation algorithm to manipulate content and potentially influence Americans. China could also use the app to collect user data that could be used for espionage, Wray said. 

So far, lawmakers in 31 states have restricted TikTok on state-issued devices, CNN reported. Bans are common in the midwest and the south, with states such as Texas, Iowa, Indiana, and Alabama enacting such restrictions. New York, Vermont, and California also have proposed restrictions that could be implemented in the future. 

Late last month, President Joe Biden signed a law banning TikTok on devices owned by federal government agencies. 

Soter’s bill is modeled on the one that Biden signed, and he drew attention to the fact that it passed with bipartisan support.

“This legislation passed Congress with overwhelming Democrat and Republican support,” he said in a statement. “It is time for Massachusetts to act to protect our citizens from this being on Government issued devices. The Commonwealth should be in line with the Federal Government on this issue. The Federal Government would not have passed this measure if they did not think that the security of American’s data was at risk.”





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