Columbia County bans TikTok on county


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May 22, 2023

Columbia County bans TikTok on county

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors joined a number of government agencies

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors joined a number of government agencies on Wednesday when they approved a resolution banning the social media app on county-owned devices.

The county joins a number of state governments, including Wisconsin, in banning TikTok over security concerns.

TikTok is a social media app that users use to create and share video content with other users. Recently it has become a bipartisan talking point with Gov. Tony Evers announcing a ban of the app on all state-owned devices.

The county resolution started in the Information Services and Property Committee introduced by David Drews, Director of Management Information Services, and was written by Drews and Corporatation Counsel Joe Ruf. County Officials cite the app's ties to the Chinese government alleging TikTok is used to spread communist propaganda.

On Wednesday morning, Supervisor Adam Field spoke of his fears of TikTok on county-owned devices. Field said that TikTok was the most popular website in 2021 and is partially owned by the Chinese Government.

"This isn't about the Chinese people, this is about the Chinese communist government," Field said. "Suffice it to say I think the Chinese government is one we cannot trust."

Field claimed TikTok was spyware software for the foreign government used to influence young people since the app is used predominately by people under the age of 40.

"This is a rising issue with government agencies banning TikTok," Field said.

Field alleged that TikTok has the ability to collect keystrokes from users which could be used to hack government servers.

"TikTok is promoted as a fun, innocent social media entertainment application," the resolution states. "TikTok is actually nefarious Chinese Communist Party ("CCP") spyware that surveils American citizens, promotes CCP propaganda, and allows the CCP to censor and control Americans’ news and content."

The resolution explains the County Management Information Services Department will take steps to make sure TikTok is not downloaded onto county-owned devices and would be immediately removed from devices that have it installed already, including cell phones, tablets and computers.

Drews did not respond to questions regarding county policy for social media applications on county-owned devices, like Facebook which is used by the sheriff's office and other departments to promote their work. Facebook and other social media collect data on their users as well.

Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, states online, "We collect and receive information from and about the different devices you use and how you use them."

Any Facebook user can go to the Meta Privacy Center for information about the data they collect from users including the statement that Facebook collects and receives data based on, "What you’re doing on your device, like whether our app is in the foreground or if your mouse is moving (which can help tell humans from bots)."

This is similar to Fields’ suggestion that TikTok knows keystrokes being used on devices the app is installed on.

The United States House of Representatives passed a spending package in December that included a bill that would ban TikTok on all federal devices. President Joe Biden signed the No TikTok on Government Devices Act on Dec. 30.

Similar steps have been made at the state level. NPR reported that a handful of states, including North Dakota, Idaho, Iowa, Texas, South Dakota, South Carolina, Maryland, Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, New Hampshire, Georgia, Tennessee, Montana, Wyoming and Virginia, have enacted similar bans.

The resolution passed on Wednesday with no opposing votes.

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