Bill to ban TikTok on public college Internet networks passes TN Senate

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

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A bill to ban TikTok and WeChat on public college Internet networks in Tennessee passed the Senate by a 28-1 vote Thursday.

During committee, Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said many in the United States have been concerned about Chinese spy balloons over the past month. But he said that, during his work in the Navy, he dealt with a lot of secrets and the biggest secret was how the military gets its secrets.

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“What we have at our fingertips is thousands of balloons,” he said, pointing to his phone.

Lundberg said that the security risk is “not from a balloon but from us.”

An amendment on the bill clarified it blocked apps from the People’s Republic of China the apps won’t be blocked in cases where “they are necessary to perform certain activities related to law enforcement, investigatory functions, audit, compliance, public safety, or other legal functions of the institution.”

During discussion in committee, Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, compared it to having a conversation in the presence of a friends iPhone and then having the specific medications he and a friend were discussing show up on the phone.

Senators clarified that those apps will be blocked on the colleges’ networks but individual users can still use the apps using their own data plan.

Tennessee previously banned TikTok on government networks and devices.

There was not debate of Senate Bill 834 when it reached the Senate floor.

The companion bill, House Bill 1445, is scheduled to be heard in the House Higher Education Subcommittee on Monday.