TikTok ban begins moving in Missouri Capitol

TikTok ban begins moving in Missouri Capitol

Although Gov. Mike Parson says a ban on using TikTok on state-owned phones is not needed, that isn’t stopping his Republican counterparts in the House and Senate from pushing for prohibitions against the Chinese-owned app.

In a hearing Monday, Rep. Adam Schnelting, R-St. Peters, outlined what he’s calling the Anti-Surveillance and Foreign Intervention Act, which would prohibit elected officials and state employees from downloading or using any app owned by the Chinese government on their state-owned electronic device.

“It puts Missouri data at risk,” Schnelting said.

Schnelting’s proposal received bipartisan support from other members of the panel.

“I have a TikTok account. I understand the implications. It is going to be interesting how this moves even in the next five years,” said Rep. Bridget Walsh Moore, a south St. Louis County Democrat.

The push comes amid renewed concerns about China’s surveillance of the U.S. after President Joe Biden ordered the military to shoot down a spy balloon that had floated over the U.S. two weeks ago.

Since then, the military has taken down three other unidentified objects that were flying about North America.

But Parson has previously said he wasn’t planning to join other governors in banning the app because he believes current state computer policies already limit its use on state-owned equipment.

State employees are monitored for social media platform downloads, which are prohibited if the apps don’t apply directly to their jobs.

An application is allowed on state employees’ work devices if it allows them to perform and fulfill their job duties. However, the administration’s Office of Cyber Security monitors the devices for any potentially malicious downloads that could compromise and harm the state network.

Some agencies in Missouri have reserved handles on TikTok but have not posted messages on the platform, they said.

The Missouri Division of Tourism, for example, reserved the VisitMo name, but a spokeswoman said officials have no plans to use it.

That approach was rejected in other states, where governors in Iowa, Alabama, Oklahoma and other states banned the app in December, arguing it could allow Beijing to mine government data.

Congress also recently banned TikTok from most U.S. government-issued devices over bipartisan concerns about security.

The spy balloon has given new urgency for state officials to react to it.

Senate President Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, announced last week the formation of a new committee that will handle legislation related to potential incursions by foreign countries into the state.

The panel’s name will be the Senate Select Committee on Protection of Missouri Assets from Foreign Adversaries.

No vote was taken on Schnelting’s proposal Monday.

The legislation is House Bill 919.


(c) 2023 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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