SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In its 2021 annual report, the South Dakota Department of Tourism highlighted the launch of a South Dakota TikTok channel.
The 2021 report says the department launched the TikTok channel to provide “another avenue for the team to reach its audiences with engaging and inspiring video content. Results in the channel’s first five months were impressive.”
The account gained more than 11,000 followers on TikTok and had more than 553,000 total views, according to the 2021 report.
On Tuesday, following Gov. Kristi Noem’s executive order banning use of the app for state government agencies, employees, and contractors on state devices, the Department of Tourism deleted its account which had more than 60,000 followers.
“We have removed our TikTok account pursuant to the Governor’s executive order and stopped all TikTok advertising. There was no additional impact,” Katyln Svendsen said in an emailed statement to KELOLAND News.
Svendsen is the Global Media & Public Relations Director for the South Dakota Department of Tourism. She said the Department of Tourism is still active on other social media platforms that can reach the same audience.
“We have an endless supply of other safe tools and productive resources to reach consumers to tell South Dakota’s story,” Svendsen said.
Noem’s executive order cites many government entities, including the U.S. Military and the Transportation Security Administration, that have banned TikTok on government-issued devices.
“The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform,” Noem said in a statement announcing the ban.
On Twitter, Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr praised Noem’s decision.
“Smart and strong step by Governor @KristiNoem to protect the safety and private data of South Dakota citizens,” Carr tweeted.
How will South Dakota universities be impacted?
TikTok channels are popular on college campuses, including public universities under the South Dakota Board of Regents. Unlike the Department of Tourism, which has deleted its TikTok account, South Dakota university accounts remain.
The University of South Dakota TikTok has more than 24,000 followers, while South Dakota State University’s TikTok has more than 9,000 followers. There are also TikTok pages from sports teams for USD and SDSU.
Dr. Matt Hale, an associate professor of cybersecurity at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said colleges and any other company using TikTok are reacting to where young people are at.
“Facebook is a fossil in the young community,” Hale told KELOLAND News. “There’s always the latest and greatest in technology. Short duration of videos and the kind of pithy, snappy things people put on these are more attractive to the younger generation.”
Hale highlighted an example of fitness data being released, which compromised government military bases. Hale said there will always be ethical questions with corporations that collect and use data that is provided by users. He said power tech companies should be scrutinized just as much as state-based actors in a forgein country.
“Users generally give away a lot of their rights,” Hale said. “There should be some informed consent about what you’re willing to give up and you should at least think about the tradeoff between additional risks you might take on in exchange for giving away some of your security and privacy.”
Shuree Mortenson, the Director of Communications with the Board of Regents, told KELOLAND News the board is working through the implications for campuses from the executive order.
“Cybersecurity is of critical importance and requires continuous assessment and response to potential vulnerabilities, such as TikTok,” Mortenson said in an emailed statement. “The Board is scheduled to convene next week for their December meeting and will undoubtedly address this topic at that time.”
The South Dakota State Fair is also on TikTok. That account has 2,000 followers. The State Fair TikTok was active Wednesday morning but had been deleted by Wednesday afternoon.