Bill banning TikTok on state-owned devices advances


Liz Fabian

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis checks a spreadsheet before asking for $825,000 to cover this year’s overtime expenses during Tuesday’s Operations and Finance committee meeting at Government Center.

ATLANTA – A Georgia Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Monday that would codify a ban on the use of TikTok on state-owned devices.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, would codify Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s directive last year aimed at TikTok, a highly popular video hosting service that runs user-submitted videos.

“The original impetus was going back to national security concerns and the [Chinese Community Party] having access to state government data,” Anavitarte told members of the Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, Byte Dance, and there is concern that its ties to the Chinese government could expose sensitive state data to a foreign government.

More than 30 states have similar bans in place, Anavitarte said.

The TikTok ban would not apply to personal devices, just those purchased by the state. The bill would also make exceptions for law enforcement, cybersecurity research and development, and judicial and legislative proceedings.

The bill would extend to other platforms owned by “scrutinized companies,” those operated by or operating in a country that is considered a foreign adversary. These would likely include WeChat, which is owned by Tencent Holdings, another Chinese company, and Telegram, which was founded in Russia but is now headquartered in Dubai.

After Kemp sent his memo last year, the University System of Georgia directed its 26 colleges and universities to prohibit the use of TikTok, WeChat and Telegram on state-owned devices, including mobile phones and laptops, according to a December statement issued by Assistant Vice Chancellor Kristina Torres.

However, Anavitarte said Monday the intention of his bill is not to ban TikTok on university campuses.

The new legislation would also require the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency to create and post on its website a list of foreign adversaries, as defined by federal regulations.

The bill will now head to the Senate floor for a vote.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.