AUGUSTA, Maine — As more states ban the use of the social media app TikTok from government devices and networks, officials in Maine have not yet decided if they plan to take any action.
As of Friday, 12 states, including neighboring New Hampshire, have taken steps to restrict the use of TikTok by government officials.
The Mills administration is still “evaluating” the next steps, according to a spokesperson for Gov. Janet Mills.
“The State of Maine Office of Information Technology is evaluating whether such action is needed,” spokesperson Ben Goodman said.
Mills joined TikTok during her reelection campaign and posted a number of videos there. A spokesperson for her campaign said the profile is no longer active and was never used on a government-issued device.
Controversy surrounding the social media platform has been growing for months. Earlier this week, the Senate unanimously approved legislation to ban its use on government devices.
Critics of TikTok fear the Chinese government could gain access to information the app collects. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.
“This is an immensely popular app, we have millions and millions of Americans on it,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said.
The commissioner says while the app is known for showcasing viral videos, he believes it also has a more sinister side.
“Underneath of it, it operates as a sophisticated surveillance tool,” Carr said. “It’s pulling everything from search and browsing history, key stroke patterns and potentially biometrics like face prints and voice prints.”
However, some experts in the field of social media believe the steps to ban the app ignores a much larger issue that involves more than one app or company.
“It’s not really about spying, it’s really more about influence,” Universtiy of Maine Professor of New Media Jon Ippolito said. “This is something that, if we’re going to focus on TikTok as a problem, we should be focusing on all kinds of social media companies, not just those who happen to be headquartered in China.”
Ippolito says more concern should be focused on the use of certain algorithms by social media companies to polarize and amplify bad habits and dangerous tendencies.
“I think that what we’re seeing is lawmakers trying to again assert a form of patriotism in a world where the globalized economics are really out of their control,” Ippolito said. “So instead of dealing with the core issues, they’re able to say, ‘Well, we’ll just not let people in the government use TikTok.'”
TikTok continues to deny that user data can be accessed by the Chinese government, saying the recent bans are “based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods.”
In the meantime, the Biden administration says it’s continuing talks with TikTok to resolve security concerns.