RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC -)- Several states are announcing new restrictions on the popular app TikTok, and Virginia could soon take similar steps.
Republican governors in at least six states have issued executive orders banning the Chinese-owned social media platform from government-issued devices like cellphones and laptops. Those states include Maryland, Texas, South Carolina, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
In an interview on Friday, state Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) said he plans to introduce a similar bill in the Virginia General Assembly when the 2023 session starts next month, but he hopes Governor Glenn Youngkin takes action sooner as the FBI warns of possible threats to national security.
“The best-case scenario would be for the Governor to issue an executive order to make it happen immediately,” McDougle said. “They should not be able to collect secrets from the state government or from institutions of higher education doing research.”
Governor Youngkin had not made any announcements as of Friday evening. Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Youngkin, didn’t respond when asked if an executive order is in the works.
Garren Shipley, a spokesperson for House Republicans, said the caucus is discussing legislation “regarding TikTok on state devices,” but he stopped short of committing to a ban.
“It could be more, could be less. Just don’t know yet,” Shipley said in a text.
House Democratic Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) said he wasn’t aware of any conversations in their caucus in a text on Friday afternoon. In a tweet later that evening responding to Republican plans, Scott said, “Not surprising that they’ll ban tik tok, contraception and abortion but not the NRA’s assault weapons.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee in Congress, endorsed the steps other GOP states have taken.
“I think it’s absolutely appropriate that more states are prohibiting employees from having TikTok on their government-issued devices,” Warner said in a statement on Friday. “TikTok is legally beholden to the Chinese Communist Party, and not only does it collect an alarming amount of information on users, but it could one day be used as a kind of propaganda machine to sway the minds of Americans or spread misinformation.”
In a recent interview with Fox News, Warner said parents should be “very concerned” about their children’s use of the app.
“I think Donald Trump was right. TikTok is an enormous threat,” Warner continued.
Former President Donald Trump previously tried and failed to ban new downloads of TikTok, which President Joe Biden later replaced with another executive order directing an “evidence-based” analysis of apps like TikTok.
In an interview on Friday, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va) said he shares security concerns about TikTok but he still thinks Trump’s order went too far.
“I don’t know that we should be banning it from private citizens. I think we need to warn private citizens what the risks are,” Kaine said. “I don’t have TikTok on any of my devices because I think the possibility that the company is taking everyone’s personal data and using it for bad reasons is so high.”
Kaine wouldn’t weigh in directly on potential action at the state level but he said President Biden should go further by banning TikTok from federal government devices.
“The administration could do that by executive order and I’m sure that they’re weighing doing that,” Kaine said.
TikTok didn’t respond to a request for comment on Friday but the app previously defended plans to safeguard U.S. data in a letter to members of Congress.