Kansas lawmakers: Banning TikTok on state-owned devices necessary for data protection

Rep. Penn says Legislature needed to take action, referencing Chinese surveillance balloon

By: - February 13, 2023 1:45 pm
Rep. Blake Carpenter spoke in support of a TikTok ban during a Feb. 13, 2023 committee hearing. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Rep. Blake Carpenter spoke in support of a TikTok ban during a Feb. 13, 2023, committee hearing. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA —  Lawmakers called for immediate action banning TikTok from use in state agencies, citing concerns over potential data breaches and Chinese spy craft.

House Bill 2314, which was debated and passed out of the House Legislative Modernization Committee on Monday, would prohibit TikTok use on any state-owned devices and state networks. While Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order banning TikTok in December 2022, the ban only applied to state-owned devices in the executive branch agencies, board and commissions. Her order also prohibited TikTok access on the state network. 

The new legislation would reinforce her order and expand the scope of the ban. Under the bill, the chief information technology officers in the executive, legislative and judicial branches would check for TikTok use on state-issued electronic devices and state networks. TikTok use would be banned from any network owned by the state. Agencies that use TikTok would have to delete the account and stop using the platform, except for agencies using TikTok for law enforcement or cybersecurity investigations. 

Committee vice chair Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Derby Republican who spoke in favor of the bill, said he was concerned about potential security breaches. TikTok is owned by a Chinese-owned company, and the FBI has recently warned that user data is potentially being shared with the Chinese government.

Carpenter referenced TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who has been called to testify before Congress in March to give information on the app’s consumer privacy and data security concerns. 

“He says that the Chinese Communist Party is not receiving any of this data, so on and so forth,” Carpenter said. “I would probably, in my own personal opinion, say that I don’t necessarily believe in that statement.”

Congress recently implemented a TikTok ban on federal devices in the House of Representatives, and many states have already put into place some form of TikTok restrictions, including Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. 

Other lawmakers on the committee echoed Carpenter’s eagerness to move the bill forward, which was done after little more than half an hour’s discussion on the bill’s implications.  Lawmakers suspend rules in order to vote on the legislation during the first hearing of the bill, sending it to the House of Representatives for the next round of approval. The only holdout at the meeting was Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Prairie Village Democrat, who felt the bill needed to be discussed longer before being sent out. 

Rep. Patrick Penn, a Wichita Republican, mentioned the Chinese surveillance balloon shot down over U.S. waters in early February, along with several unidentified objects recently spotted flying over the U.S.

“Things are happening,” Penn said. “They’re happening at lightning speed, and I would say we need to do something more than nothing.”

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.