Government Bans on TikTok Growing Across the U.S. – Social Factor Alert

The drumbeat of governmental unease with TikTok has been steadily growing louder since it started in earnest with the Trump administration, but intensity on this issue jumped to a new level heading into the 2022 midterm elections. Since 2020, more than half of US states have taken some level of official action against TikTok, most commonly by issuing a ban against its use on government devices or networks. On December 29, 2022, congress passed the No TikTok on Government Devices Act as part of an omnibus spending bill, which had been fast-tracked to avoid government shutdown. That legislation required the Biden administration to establish rules removing the app from government-issued devices by mid-February, although the House of Representatives had already banned it on devices it owns or manages. Local governments have acted here as well – for example, the city of Charlotte banned TikTok on employee work phones. These actions are causing some conflict among public entities: while the governor of Alaska has started a ban on state-issued devices, the University of Alaska has held the position it is not covered by the order despite receiving state funding. 

What Brands Need to Know

  • Without a comprehensive federal mandate, we’re left with a fabric of regulations and orders that could affect your brand in unexpected ways. For example, if your brand partners with non-profit agencies that receive state or local funding, they may not be able to interact with TikTok content created in a joint campaign. 
  • Federal negotiations with TikTok have been ongoing for the past two years, led by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CIFUS) – an interagency government panel representing nine different entities including the departments of the Treasury, Justice, Commerce, and Homeland Security. Gaining alignment from these entities will be a slow process, meaning we are likely to continue to interact with TikTok under a patchwork of regulations with varying jurisdiction and consequences. 

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