TikTok ban on Georgia phones passes state Senate

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The Georgia Senate voted Thursday to ban social media services such as TikTok from state employee devices if they’re owned by “foreign adversaries” including China.

The proposal, which passed 50-0, is the latest state effort to crack down on the possibility that foreign countries could snoop on state government data through social media apps. The bill now advances to the Georgia House for further consideration.

Gov. Brian Kemp previously issued a directive prohibiting executive branch state employees from using TikTok, WeChat and Telegram on state devices. The measure approved Thursday, Senate Bill 93, would put those restrictions into state law.

The bill applies to all state devices used by K-12 public school employees and by employees in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The bill wouldn’t ban use of apps in colleges and universities.

“My kids, without reading the bill, think that we’re getting rid of their TikTok. Maybe we should, but that’s a different bill,” said state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a Republican from Dallas and the bill’s sponsor.

Under the bill, which doesn’t mention TikTok by name, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency would be required to use the federal list of “foreign adversaries” that includes China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Russia to decide on prohibited social media sites.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing, and Chinese law requires businesses to share data with the country’s government.

The social media platforms would still be allowed in law enforcement investigations, cybersecurity research and judicial proceedings.