Hobbs Signs Executive Order Banning Use Of TikTok On Government Devices

Hobbs Signs Executive Order Banning Use Of TikTok On Government Devices

By Daniel Stefanski |

Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs and Arizona Legislative Republicans may not see eye to eye on much this session, but there’s one issue that has united Republicans with the state’s chief executive.

Last week, Governor Hobbs signed an executive order, dated April 4, to force “all State Agencies to remove TikTok from State-owned and State-leased information technology and personal devices used for State work.”

Hobbs justified her decision, writing that “TikTok has been found to have security vulnerabilities that, if unresolved, could expose State-owned or State-leased devices to malicious actors creating potential security and privacy risks to State agencies and the systems and data the State is charged with protecting.”

As Hobbs’ order concedes, the Arizona action was not the first in the nation: “TikTok has been banned on government devices by the federal government, several other states, countries, and organizations due to security concerns and concerns about the application’s potential to spread misinformation and propaganda.”

Freshman Representative Matt Gress, the sponsor of the “No TikTok on Arizona Government Devices Act” (HB 2416), cheered on the governor’s action, stating, “I applaud the Governor for taking action to address the security and data collection threats posed by TikTok and similar apps.”

Gress, though, urged the governor and his colleagues in the Legislature to pass and sign his bill, saying, “The Legislature still needs to act, and the Governor should sign HB 2416, a comprehensive plan to keep the state’s critical information secure and strengthen public safety. It would expand on the Governor’s order, codifying it permanently into state law, and apply to all government entities, employees, and contractors.”

HB 2416 passed the Arizona House at the end of February with a 31-28 vote – with one Democrat Representative not voting. It recently cleared the Senate Government Committee, and it awaits final action from the full chamber.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes also chimed in on the TikTok news with an announcement, dated April 5, that the use of TikTok was banned on “all computers, mobile phones, and tablets owned by the (Attorney General’s) office.” Mayes explained that “Data security is paramount, especially for government agencies that handle sensitive information. We cannot risk the potential exposure of our data to foreign entities. Banning TikTok on state-owned devices is a necessary measure to protect our operations.”

Mayes revealed that “she was not reassured by recent testimony given by the CEO of Tik Tok to a Congressional panel,” adding, “Given the inability of TikTok’s CEO to definitiely state that the Chinese government cannot access data collected from U.S. users, I remain unconvinced that the app’s security risks have been adequately addressed.”

The action out of Mayes’ Office appears to have taken place earlier in the week. In the release from her office, it was stated that “Attorney General Mayes announced the ban in an email to Arizona Attorney General Office employees earlier this week.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

ASU, NAU Begin To Ban TikTok

ASU, NAU Begin To Ban TikTok

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona State University (ASU) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) announced Monday that they would begin banning TikTok from their campuses.

In statements to media outlets, the universities cited orders from the Biden administration regarding federal contractors as the rationale for walking back their usage of the platform.

Both ASU and NAU said they would begin deactivating their university-affiliated accounts beginning on Monday. One of ASU’s main accounts, @arizonastateuniversity, last posted in February. One of NAU’s main accounts, @nausocial, last posted a recruitment video to the platform on Monday.

Initial information provided by an ASU spokesperson relayed that ASU would block access to TikTok on its WiFi and university networks. However, in a revised statement, ASU noted that the ban would concern ASU-managed devices, not student devices accessing university networks. 

“TikTok will no longer be allowed to be installed on ASU-managed devices as the university takes steps following President Biden’s recent order for federal contractors,” stated ASU. 

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the order in late February, giving federal agencies and contractors up to 30 days to comply. OMB Director Shalanda Young cited the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 as the basis for the guidance. 

The act instructed the OMB, the administrator of General Services, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the director of National Intelligence, and the secretary of Defense to craft guidance removing TikTok from government devices. 

According to the OMB guidance, federal agencies are currently in the second phase of this order: 90 days of ensuring compliance and ceasing contracts with the noncompliant. The third phase directs federal agencies to ensure compliance in future contracts and solicitations for 120 days.

The act made exceptions to the ban for law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, and security research. However, each exercise of this exception must be given via approval and documentation from an agency head or their designee on an annual basis.

Then last month, a TikTok spokesperson claimed to multiple media outlets that the Biden administration demanded that its parent company, ByteDance, either sell TikTok or face a nationwide ban. The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee had voted earlier in the month to given Biden the power to ban the app.  

As tensions between the Biden administration and TikTok mounted, the White House faced scrutiny for posting a video reportedly created using another app owned by ByteDance: CapCut. 

Biden has also faced criticisms for his use of TikTok influencers for the past two years to attract younger voters, inviting controversial figures like transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney and LGBTQ entertainer Benito Skinner (Benny Drama) to the White House.

The Biden administration also authorized thousands in cash payments to create an “influencer army” using TikTok stars. One of them, Ellie Zeiler, was asked to push Biden administration messaging on the Ukraine war, rising gas prices, and historic inflation rates onto her 10 million followers.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

ASU, NAU Begin To Ban TikTok

TikTok Ban Passes Arizona House Committee

By Corinne Murdock |

TikTok may soon be banned from Arizona’s government devices, according to a proposed bill that passed out of committee on Wednesday. The House Government Committee passed the legislation unanimously. 

State Rep. Matt Gress (R-LD04) introduced the ban through a strike-everything amendment rewriting HB2416. Gress coordinated with House Government Committee Chairman Tim Dunn (R-LD25) to craft the legislation. 

During the committee hearing, Gress relayed remarks from FBI Director Christopher Wray issued last year concerning national security concerns on government devices with TikTok. Wray warned that the Chinese government is capable of controlling recommendation algorithms to implement influence operations, or control software on devices with the option to possibly compromise personal devices. 

Gress reminded the committee that other bad actors rely on TikTok besides the Chinese government, such as the Mexican cartels. The ban would include specific carveouts for law enforcement addressing cartels relying on the app.

“The cartels use TikTok to recruit many of their contractors to wreak havoc in the United States,” said Gress.

In a Tuesday press release ahead of the committee approval of the legislation, Gress reminded Arizonans that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which controls TikTok, is capable of gathering data on American citizens’ internet activity through the app. 

“When I was sworn into office, I took an oath to defend my constituents and all Arizonans from enemies both foreign and domestic,” said Gress. “This legislation fulfills this promise as the security risks associated with the use of TikTok — an application owned and operated by the Chinese Communist Party with the capabilities of gathering crucial details about personal, private internet activity — can’t be ignored.”

The legislation would require the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA) to remove TikTok from all information technology devices used for state business and public services within 30 days after enactment.

25 states have banned TikTok on all state devices, with three states banning the app from certain state devices. The states that have banned the app from all state devices are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Florida, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia banned the app from certain state devices. 

Last November, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee that the parent company of TikTok, ByteDance, could monitor Americans through the app.

“There’s a number of concerns there as to what is actually happening and actually being done,” said Wray. “That’s probably something that would be better addressed in a closed, classified setting, and I could see what information we might be able to share that way, but that’s probably not much more than I could add to that, other than to say it is certainly something that’s on our radar, and we share your concerns.”

ByteDance also revealed to U.S. reporters last year that it had planned to use TikTok to monitor the physical location of specific Americans for surveillance purposes.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.