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New York City Bans TikTok on Government-Issued Devices

The city, citing security risks from the massively popular social media platform, follows the lead of other public agencies. TikTok has been downloaded more than 220 million times in the U.S., according to an estimate.

A smartphone in the foreground with the TikTok logo on a black background on its screen. The background is the Chinese flag.
New York City government is giving the boot to TikTok.

Officials reportedly are banning the use of the social media outlet on city-owned devices. Users and agencies have 30 days to comply.

The popular social video platform, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is a security risk for the city’s technical networks, according to a report from The Verge.

That finding comes from a review by the city’s Cyber Command, which in turn led to the ban on Wednesday. The ban reportedly prohibits NYC workers “from downloading or using the app and accessing TikTok’s website from any city-owned devices,” according to the publication.

City officials provided no immediate comment late Wednesday to Government Technology.

New York City has a reputation as the source of all types of trends, but in this case, the metropolis is following the lead of other public agencies when it comes to TikTok.

According to The Verge report, city officials leaned on guidelines about TikTok from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, along with a ban on TikTok use for federal agencies, in crafting the ban. New York state set a similar ban back in 2020, one of the first states to make such a move because of worries about cyber threats and data hacks.

Indeed, at least 37 states have TikTok bans, though not all of them cover all government-issued devices. A main argument fueling such bans is that TikTok offers an opening for China’s intelligence operations to learn more about the U.S., especially as tensions increase in the South China Sea and over Taiwan.

In some respects, bans against TikTok can seem like trying to push water back into the ocean. That’s because the platform has been downloaded more than 3.5 billion times, according to one estimate — and more than 220 million times in the U.S., according to another. In the first quarter of 2023, TikTok downloads hit almost 250 million globally, nearly 20 percent higher than was the case in the fourth quarter of 2022.

All that speaks to the power of the platform not only as a popular communication channel but as a marketing tool, especially among highly desirable younger consumers.

Government bans against TikTok have not gone unchallenged.

In fact, TikTok is funding a lawsuit challenging Montana’s ban, which applies to all users, not just those with government-issued devices. The lawsuit claims the ban violates users’ First Amendment rights. Another lawsuit in Texas was brought by college professors who claim that the ban on university devices harms teaching and research activities.