Quick Takes

Senate committee forwards bill to codify TikTok ban on Kentucky government devices 

By: - February 8, 2023 3:46 pm

FRANKFORT — A Kentucky Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed putting into state law a ban on TikTok on state government devices or networks.

TikTok, a social media platform where content creators can make minutes-long videos about a variety of topics, is commonly used by teenagers and young adults. 

The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 9-0 to forward Senate Bill 20 with a favorable recommendation. A similar measure has been introduced in the House, though it is still in the Committee on Committees. 

Sponsors on the Senate Bill are Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson; Sen. Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro; Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville; Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield; and Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville.

Mills, who presented the bill to the committee, said it is intended to make the ban permanent in Kentucky state law, following recent actions by the executive branch and the Legislative Research Commission to keep TikTok off state devices.. 

“The legislature’s affirmative action on this bill will place this ban in statute, so it will not timeout as an executive policy will or can do in future times,” Mills told the committee. “We need to protect the data that exists on our state devices.” 

Last month, the Kentucky’s employee handbook, which covers the executive branch, was updated to include a social media policy barring the use of social media sites owned by ByteDance Limited, such as TikTok. At least one state government account, the Kentucky Department of Tourism’s account, was deleted after the change. 

The proposals in Kentucky’s General Assembly come amid calls from state and national lawmakers to ban TikTok amid possible security concerns related to the site’s parent company, ​​Chinese tech giant, ByteDance. 

In December, the company said four employees, two based in the U.S. and two in China, violated company policy and inappropriately accessed U.S. users’ data, the New York Times reported. NPR reported in November FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a U.S. House Homeland Security Committee hearing that the bureau was concerned about the Chinese government potentially using the app to collect data or influence American operations. 

After the committee meeting, Mills said that Senate leadership is in favor of moving the bill forward. 

During the meeting, Sen. Gex Williams, R-Verona, noted that the bill says the judicial branch “may” implement controls while saying the executive and legislative branches “shall”  put controls in place. Mills said drafters chose “may” was included by drafters to avoid the legislative branch directing the judicial branch. Williams indicated he would like to see a floor amendment on this part of the bill. 

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.