TikTok banned from Kentucky government devices

Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration banned TikTok on state government devices and accounts on Thursday amid growing concerns about the app’s risk to national security.

The move comes after Congress passed legislation last month banning the app from federal devices and networks as part of the Omnibus Spending Act, and 20 other states have banned the app, including Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee.

A spokesman for the Beshear administration said the changes had been under consideration for several weeks and were based on recent action by Congress and advice from federal law enforcement agencies.

The policy does not apply to private use on personal devices. TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has faced bipartisan criticism and fears for years that it doesn’t fully protect US users’ data from the Chinese government.

The FBI last month warned of potential national security threats posed by the social media platform.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last week issued an executive order banning TikTok on devices used by government employees and extending the ban to any app or social media platform based in China.

And Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers went a step further with his executive order, banning vendors, products and services from other Chinese companies, including Huawei Technologies and Hikvision.

TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has faced controversy centered on concerns over user data, security, and the company’s statements to US authorities on these issues.

Bills in the Kentucky Legislature

In the first week of the legislative session, Republican lawmakers introduced two bills — Senate Bill 20 and House Bill 124 — that would ban the downloading or use of TikTok on any state government-issued device or network and would go into effect immediately upon passage.

Ashland Republican Rep. Scott Sharp, the sponsor of the House bill, said it was important to protect the state’s networks from security breaches.

“Our bill aims to protect the Kentucky state government and government networks from any connection with the Chinese government. If the reporting of how TikTok is downloading personal data, which includes people’s accounts and passwords, is true, they can always compromise the state networks if they want to target us, and even shut them down,” he said.

Kentucky lawmakers have relatively little presence on the app, with the exception of former Democratic Senator Morgan McGarvey, who now serves in Congress. During a discussion of KET this week, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers jokingly said Senator Damon Thayer was goaded to participate but apparently declined.

“It just means Morgan McGarvey, Damon Thayer aren’t driving and singing along anymore,” he said.

Lawmakers will meet again on February 7 to consider the two bills.

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