Cooper bans TikTok, WeChat on state government devices

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  • Gov. Roy Cooper's latest executive order bans TikTok and WeChat from state government computers and mobile phones.
  • Two Republican state representatives sent Cooper a Dec. 28 letter requesting a TikTok ban.

People using state government computers and mobile phones will soon lose access to TikTok and WeChat. Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order Thursday prohibiting use of those applications on state-issued devices.

The announcement comes two weeks after two Republican state representatives sent a letter to Cooper requesting a TikTok ban.

Executive Order 276 directs the state chief information officer and the N.C. Department of Information Technology to develop a new policy within 14 days. The policy would prohibit “TikTok, WeChat, and potentially other applications on state agency information technology systems in a manner that presents an unacceptable cybersecurity risk,” according to a news release from Cooper’s office.

“It’s important for us to protect state information technology from foreign countries that have actively participated in cyberattacks against the United States,” Cooper said. “Protecting North Carolina from cyber threats is vital to ensuring the safety, security, privacy, and success of our state and its people.”

Cooper’s news release noted that other government agencies have taken similar steps. That includes other states, “multiple branches” of the U.S. military, and the federal Transportation Security Administration.

Additional “high-risk applications and websites” could be added to the prohibition list in the future.

“NCDIT’s top priority is the security and protection of the state’s IT systems, data, and assets,” said NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Jim Weaver. “Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order is essential to this critical work.”

Cooper’s news release includes comments from both state representatives who wrote to his office on Dec. 28.

“The Governor’s Executive Order takes an important first step to ensure the privacy of our citizens and the security of North Carolina’s government networks,” said Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, senior chairman of the state House’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee. Saine also chairs the Information Technology Oversight Committee.

“This guidance is a step in the right direction,” said Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford. Hardister serves as House majority whip and chairs the House committee dealing with university education. He recently announced plans to run for N.C. labor commissioner in 2024. “I appreciate the Governor’s office collaborating with us on this initiative. I look forward to our continued efforts to establish long-term plans to enhance our cyber security.”

Democratic Reps. Robert Reives of Chatham County and Ashton Clemmons of Guilford County also noted their support for the TikTok ban in the governor’s announcement.

Cooper dictated that the new policy include “minimum requirements.”

“State agency employees may not install or otherwise utilize the TikTok or WeChat applications on state-issued devices and must remove any existing instances of the TikTok and WeChat applications from state-issued devices within the time period specified in the policy.

“State agency employees may not access any TikTok or WeChat website on a state-issued device.

“State agencies and their employees may obtain an exception from the prohibition on the installation and use of TikTok or WeChat for law enforcement or other legitimate purposes under conditions specified by DIT.”

The department may add more “restrictions, conditions, or prohibitions.”