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State governments are imposing new restrictions on TikTok while the Biden administration deliberates over a federal crackdown on the China-linked technology platform.
Maryland prohibited state officials from using TikTok this week after South Dakota made a similar move. The Republican governors of those states have potential 2024 presidential campaign aspirations.
Fears that Americans’ data on TikTok might fall prey to the Chinese government contributed to the Trump administration’s review of the popular app and desire to restrict its operation in the U.S. The Biden administration maintained the review while replacing an executive order to restrict transactions with TikTok’s China-founded parent company.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency directive on Tuesday ordering state devices to block TikTok and other technology products and platforms with connections to China and Russia, such as Huawei and Kaspersky.
“As the cyber capital of America, Maryland has taken bold and decisive actions to prepare for and address cybersecurity threats,” Mr. Hogan said in a statement. “To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order last month blocking TikTok’s use by government agencies, contractors and employees.
“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us,” she said at the time. “The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform.”
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said the restrictions were “largely fueled by misinformation about our company.”
“We are always happy to meet with state policymakers to discuss our privacy and security practices,” she said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the many state agencies, offices, and universities that have been using TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents will no longer have access to our platform.”
Mr. Hogan and Ms. Noem have publicly sought to push the Republican Party away from supporting former President Donald Trump’s 2024 White House bid. Ms. Noem told The New York Times last month that Mr. Trump did not give the party its best chance of winning the next presidential election. Mr. Hogan, a longtime critic of Mr. Trump, is reportedly exploring whether a lane exists for his candidacy.
Concerns about TikTok predate presidential campaign politics and extend across partisan lines. Mr. Trump’s administration initiated the federal government’s review of TikTok over national security concerns, and the Biden administration has continued to study the platform.
Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed regret about forgoing federal action against TikTok while Mr. Trump was in office.
“I think Donald Trump was right,” Mr. Warner told “Fox News Sunday” last month. “I mean, TikTok is an enormous threat.”
Republicans are pushing Democrats in other states to follow the directives of Mr. Hogan and Ms. Noem. Six Wisconsin Republicans, including Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Mike Gallagher, wrote to Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, on Tuesday asking him to ban TikTok from state government devices.
The Biden administration has not reached a decision about whether or how to crack down on TikTok. Negotiations between the White House and TikTok have encountered delays, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, led by the Treasury Department, reviews commercial transactions for national security problems and has investigated TikTok. The committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Ms. Oberwetter said TikTok would not comment on its discussions with the Biden administration but was “confident” it was on a path to satisfy the government’s national security concerns.
• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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