‘I would absolutely support a ban on TikTok,’ Utah governor says
Data privacy concerns exist on nearly all social media sites, but the issues regarding TikTok are glaring, Gov. Spencer Cox said
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Monday said he would “absolutely” support a federal TikTok ban, a policy idea gaining traction among U.S. politicians, from state legislatures to the White House.
Privacy concerns exist on nearly all social media sites, but the issues regarding TikTok are glaring, the governor said during a Monday morning appearance on Fox Business’ Varney & Co.
“I agree that there are data privacy issues with all social media companies. But what we know about TikTok and what’s happening in China, and their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, I would absolutely support a ban on TikTok,” Cox said.
Cox’s comments come amid growing calls for the U.S. government to rein in TikTok, which has been labeled a national security threat by some lawmakers. Just four days earlier, TikTok’s chief executive Shou Chew fielded questions from skeptical U.S. representatives on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, who called the company a threat to national security, personal privacy and teen mental health.
Cox’s interview also coincided with an Associated Press investigation that found strong ties between Utah lawmakers and the Chinese government, pointing to a yearslong effort by China to build relationships among the state’s powerful. According to the report, Utah lawmakers delayed and opposed legislation and resolutions that were critical of China.
President Joe Biden’s administration has also signaled that it wants TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app or it could face a possible U.S. ban. However, on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry said the country would “firmly oppose” a forced sale, according to The New York Times. And a ban would face a steep legal challenge, with a federal court ruling that former President Donald Trump did not have the authority to bar Google and Apple from selling TikTok on app stores.
Cox in December issued an executive order prohibiting the use of TikTok on all state-owned electronic devices. The federal government and other states have enacted similar bans.
“China’s access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity,” Cox said in a statement after the ban. “As a result, we’ve deleted our TikTok account and ordered the same on all state-owned devices. We must protect Utahns and make sure that the people of Utah can trust the state’s security systems.”
On Monday’s Fox Business interview, he referred to the order, calling the issue “very important to us.”
A bill making its way through the U.S. Senate, endorsed by the White House, would clear the way for a TikTok ban by giving the federal government the ability to restrict technologies from China. And while the idea of a ban is gaining approval among both parties, not everyone in Washington supports it.
“Congress has not received a classified briefing around the allegations of national security risks regarding TikTok,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, in her first TikTok video. “So why would we be proposing a ban regarding such a significant issue without being clued in on this at all? It just doesn't feel right to me.”
A spokeswoman told The New York Times Ocasio-Cortez had created the TikTok account more than a year ago but hadn’t posted on the app until now.
Cox on Monday pushed back on Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks.
“That previous congressperson talking about how it’s the same as all these other (social media companies), it is not,” he said.
Monday’s Fox Business interview was the latest national media appearance for the governor, who has been touting two bills signed into law last week that will enforce drastic changes to how teens in Utah interact with all forms of social media.
One bill would prevent teens from using social without their parent’s permission, effectively requiring every Utahn to prove their age before creating an account — for the parents who do consent to their teens using social media, the state will further regulate social media companies, prohibiting them from things like targeted ads for teens and showing up in search results.
The other bill restricts social media companies from using algorithms catered for teens that could be considered “addictive.”