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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer still posting on TikTok despite state ban of app on official devices

Chinese-owned platform under mounting scrutiny amid fears app poses significant risks to national security, user data privacy, and teen mental health.

Published: March 28, 2023 11:13pm

Updated: March 29, 2023 12:18am

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer regularly posts content to her popular account on embattled social media platform TikTok despite the state banning use of the app on official devices earlier this month.

Whitmer's "BigGretchWhitmer" account currently boasts 201,900 followers. Her recent posts include highlights from a past interview, personal promotions for her literacy initiatives, her views on gun violence prevention, and scenic footage of the state, among a wide range of other content.

Her activities have earned her a whopping 3.1 million likes on the platform.

TikTok has faced intense scrutiny as a potential security threat due in part to its parent company, the Beijing-based ByteDance, maintaining close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

In banning the app's use on official devices, Michigan followed the lead of roughly half of the states as well as the federal government. President Joe Biden in late February ordered that the app be removed from federal devices within 30 days.

Despite mounting fears that the app poses significant risks to national security, user data privacy, and teen mental health, Whitmer remains adamant about using the platform. Michigan's ban exempted Whitmer's account, which acting state Chief Security Officer Jayson Cavendish told MLive was on a secure device that has never accessed the state network nor used its wi-fi.

The governor has asserted that the app is a widely used method of communication and that its popularity warrants its use for addressing the public directly.

"Whether we like it or not, that is a tool for disseminating important information," she told CNN's Jake Tapper last month. "And that's how we use it. We have it on one device that has no access to anything else because so many people get their information that way."

She is not alone in pointing to the app's pervasiveness in American society while arguing for its use. New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently joined the platform as federal lawmakers ramp up efforts to restrict it.

"The United States has never before banned a social media company from existence, from operating in our borders, and this is an app that has over 150 million Americans on it," she said in a recent post.

That attitude conflicts with the position of the intelligence community, however. Addressing the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray argued that the app's widespread use should not play a role in how policymakers address the threat.

"I guess my point is that just to tie it all up, [TikTok] is a substantial national security threat for the country of a kind that we didn't face in the past," Wray said.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation in December to ban the app outright across the nation, with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio warning that the app's creative features do not outweigh the risks.

"This isn't about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day," he said.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced this week that the lower chamber would advance legislation to ban TikTok.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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