“The state of Georgia has a responsibility to prevent any attempt to access and infiltrate its secure data and sensitive information by foreign adversaries such as the CCP,” Kemp said in the order, which referred to the Chinese Communist Party.
“The CCP poses an ever-present national security threat to the United States and Georgia. As such, it is our duty to take action to preserve the safety and security of our state against the CCP, entities it controls, and other foreign cyberthreats.”
There are exceptions to the restrictions, however. State agencies can request an exemption to allow law enforcement investigations and “other legitimate business use,” according to guidance from the Georgia Technology Authority.
For instance, officials said the state’s universities and colleges, along with other state agencies, could seek an exception to continue using the apps as a recruiting tool to attract students and staffers.
Some state accounts are already winding down. The Georgia Department of Transportation TikTok account, which regularly posted about construction projects and traffic issues, alerted its followers to instead keep up with posts on the agency’s Instagram page.
TikTok has called the restrictions a “politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States.” Representatives of WeChat and Telegram didn’t immediately comment.
Former President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok and WeChat over national security concerns, but Joe Biden’s administration reversed the policy.
Still, new debate has emerged over how to contain the spread of disinformation and restrict foreign governments from tapping information from U.S. users.
Several federal measures have been introduced to discourage public employees from using TikTok and stop China-based staffers from accessing data. The State Department and Department of Homeland Security have already restricted TikTok from its devices.
Governors in about a dozen other states have taken similar steps to block TikTok on government-owned devices, including Idaho, Maryland, South Dakota and Utah. And Republican state Sen. Jason Anavitarte recently said he’ll push legislation to ban the app from being used in Georgia.
Anavitarte, one of the top-ranking Republicans in the state Senate, said Thursday that Kemp took “decisive action to keep Georgians safe and secure.”
There’s bipartisan support for taking steps to limit TikTok. In this year’s race for governor, Democrat Stacey Abrams pledged to close what she called a “critical loophole” in the state’s technology infrastructure that could leave systems vulnerable to hacking from Chinese government agents.
And the U.S. Senate measure targeting TikTok was approved Wednesday by unanimous consent, though it must still clear the House to reach Biden’s desk. The measure’s sponsor, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, said the app “has no place on government devices” until it severs ties with China.