Kentucky senators in agreement on passing TikTok ban bill

Published 11:15 am Wednesday, February 15, 2023

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By McKenna Horsley

Kentucky Lantern

Kentucky senators were not divided on a proposal to put recent bans on a social media platform into state law.

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On Friday, the Senate voted 33-0 on Senate Bill 20, a piece of legislation that would prohibit TikTok, a social media platform where users can create minutes-long videos, from state government devices or networks. Lawmakers both at the state and federal levels have raised security concerns with the site because of its parent company, ​​Chinese tech giant ByteDance.

The lead sponsor on the bill, Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, cited on the Senate floor concerns from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about national security risks posed by TikTok and its capacity to influence users or their devices.

“Most Chinese companies are connected, directed or partially owned by the Chinese government,” Mills said. “It has been reported on multiple news sources and confirmed that TikTok mines huge amounts of private data which the Chinese government, a foreign adversary of the United States, would have access to.”

No other senators spoke on the bill while in session. Earlier this week, the Senate State and Local Government Committee gave the bill a favorable recommendation.

If the bill becomes law, the Commonwealth Office of Technology and the legislative branch would have to implement controls to block the site on state-issued devices and networks. The judicial branch may also implement a ban or restrictions.

In recent weeks, executive branch employees were barred from downloading or using TikTok or other sites owned by ByteDance on state-issued devices. The Legislative Research Committee also banned the use of TikTok on LRC-issued devices on Jan. 20, Public Information Manager Mike Wynn recently said in an email.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, pointed out to reporters after the Senate adjourned Friday that the legislation had been discussed before reports of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the U.S. made headlines last week.