by M.D. Kittle
After more than a month of warnings from Wisconsin’s congressional Republicans and the cybersecurity community), Gov. Tony Evers says he will ban TikTok on state devices.
Wisconsin joins federal agencies, Congress and at least 16 states in prohibiting the popular video-sharing app that has drawn widespread concerns that its being used as a spying tool for the Chinese Communist Party.
U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-8th CD), who led the Wisconsin delegation in urging Evers to act, says the decision is long overdue. He called TikTok a “CCP Trojan horse.”
“This app belongs nowhere near any part of our government and I’m glad Governor Evers finally made the decision to ban TikTok on state devices. Now that Governor Evers has recognized the threat posed by the app, I hope he will also delete his campaign’s TikTok account,” Gallagher said in a statement.
Evers finally bowed to pressure on Friday.
“We consulted with the FBI and our emergency management and came to the conclusion it’s the best idea,” Evers told WISN TV’s Matt Smith.
The alleged consultations came after months of warnings from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in November told the House Homeland Security Committee China’s ruling Communist Party could be using TikTok to collect user data or control software for espionage.
“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States,” Wray said during a speech last month at the University of Michigan . “That should concern us.”
It should have concerned Evers long before, Gallagher and others said.
A report released before the holidays from the Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty spelled out the dangers of the popular video-sharing app directly tied to communist China.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act.” The measure was part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill. Several states, including Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, and Texas have banned the app on government devices.
The State Department, Department of Defense, Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security previously barred the app from their agency devices.
WILL’s report backs up those concerns.
“We’re glad to see Governor Evers finally come around and ban an app that could give the Chinese government back-door access to Wisconsin’s most sensitive information,” said Noah Diekemper, Milwaukee-based WILL’s Senior Research Analyst. “Every day that Governor Evers turned a blind eye to evidence showing how dangerous TikTok is, we risked security compromises at the hands of malicious actors.”
The governor’s office had seemed nonchalant about the security risks. Evers’ spokeswoman shrugged off concerns and mocked congressional Republicans for sending a letter to the governor.
On Dec. 21, Evers told the Wisconsin State Journal that his administration was “monitoring” the use of the app on state devises.
“(B)ut we’re also asking the basic question, which is, ‘Is this something we should stop doing?’ Evers said.
The short answer from everyone from the FBI to Democrats and Republicans alike in congress is, yes.
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M.D. Kittle is a senior reporter at Wisconsin Spotlight.
Photo “Tony Evers” by Tony Evers.