A bill that would ban TikTok on Arizona government devices passed its first committee hearing with unanimous support.
The House Government Committee passed HB2416 in an 8-0 vote on Feb. 15. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, who said during the hearing that the intent was to protect the state’s government entities from potential surveillance from the Chinese Communist Party.
“This just is common sense legislation,” Gress said during the hearing.
TikTok is a video hosting social media service where users can submit videos anywhere from three seconds to 10 minutes long. It is owned and operated by the Chinese company ByteDance, which is regulated by the Chinese Communist Party.
The legislation, called the “No TikTok on Arizona Government Devices Act,” would require the Arizona Department of Administration to remove TikTok from all information technology devices used for state business and public service, including ones used for public higher education. The department would also annually update the ban list to include any other apps that are determined to present a cybersecurity threat.
Gress said law enforcement agencies would still be permitted to use the app for investigative purposes. but only on a separate IT platform.
The bill is modeled after similar legislation that several other states have passed. Business Insider reported on Jan. 15 that at least 27 other states have banned TikTok on government devices. Most states that have done this have Republican majorities in government. The bill language doesn’t specifically mention TikTok, but its language does directly target the app.
Gress also cited Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray testifying that the FBI had many “national security concerns” about using TikTok on American government devices. During a U.S. House Homeland Security Committee hearing, he also said TikTok officials have confirmed China-based employees can see U.S.-based data.
“(Our concerns) include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so choose, or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it an opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices,” Wray said in his testimony to Congress.
A TikTok ban bill passed in the U.S. Senate unanimously in December and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.
In a House GOP news release announcing the bill, Gress referenced the Chinese spy balloon that was spotted flying over Montana on Feb. 1. ABC News reported on Feb. 15 that U.S. officials said the balloon may have been inadvertently blown into U.S. airspace.
“Recently, Chinese Intelligence purposefully sent a spy balloon over our nation’s most sensitive military bases to gather critical security information,” Gress said in the news release. “The Chinese government has no interest in collaborative relations with the United States of America.”
Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, thanked Gress for introducing the legislation, which appears in a striker amendment to a bill that originally had no relation to banning TikTok.
“It’s important to protect our assets and protect what’s going on with foreign countries,” Dunn said.