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01:40 - Source: CNN Business
Washington CNN  — 

Two years after TikTok avoided a national ban in the United States, the popular short-form video app is now facing growing pushback at the state level.

In the past two weeks, at least seven states have said they will bar public employees from using the app on government devices, including Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Texas. (Another state, Nebraska, banned TikTok from state devices in 2020.) Last week, the state of Indiana announced two lawsuits against TikTok accusing the Chinese-owned platform of misrepresenting its approach to age-appropriate content and data security.

On Tuesday, a group of 15 attorneys general wrote to Apple and Google calling on the app store owners to stop listing TikTok as being appropriate for teens, over claims about the prevalence of mature content on the app.

The mounting pressure on TikTok has come from states led by Republican governors who have highlighted fears that TikTok users’ personal information could wind up in the hands of the Chinese government, thanks to that country’s national security laws.

“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us,” said Gov. Kristi Noem in announcing the new state policy.

The flurry of announcements has drawn sharp contrasts with activity at the federal level. Since 2020, when the Trump administration threatened a ban over national security concerns, TikTok and the US government have been negotiating a deal that may allow the short-form video app to keep serving US users.

There have been years of closed-door negotiations between TikTok and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an opaque multi-agency panel charged with reviewing foreign investment deals for national security risks. One US official has suggested that CFIUS ban TikTok from the United States outright.

Whatever outcome the negotiations produce is still expected to have big implications for TikTok and its users. But the federal government’s continued inaction on that front, as well as recent reports of delays in the negotiations, has left the door open for states to step in as the app has gained immense popularity among US users.

In taking these steps, the states are unlikely to disrupt how everyday users access the app. But these recent announcements could nonetheless add to political pressure for tougher action at the federal level, which could in turn be more disruptive to users.

“It feels like the states are stepping into the DC vacuum on TikTok,” said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst at the investment research firm Cowen Inc. “I don’t see those new restrictions disrupting TikTok that much, but it probably adds a bit of pressure for Washington to ‘do something’ on TikTok one way or another.”

The Treasury Department, CFIUS’s chair agency, said in a statement that the panel is “committed to taking all necessary actions within its authority to safeguard US national security” and declined to comment on TikTok specifically. The White House also declined to comment.

“We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok,” Hilary McQuaide, a spokesperson for TikTok, said in a statement provided to CNN. “It’s unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, and universities on TikTok in those states will no longer be able to use it to build communities and connect with constituents.”

A long wait for federal action