NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill that would effectively ban TikTok on college campuses passed the Tennessee House of Representatives and the Senate. Representatives voted to pass it on Thursday, and it's now headed to Governor Bill Lee's desk to be signed into law.
The bill, SB 0834, was introduced by Senator Jon Lundberg (R - Bristol). It says that any public postsecondary institution that provides internet access cannot allow people to access "a social media platform using the institution's network if the platform is operated or hosted by a company based in the People's republic of China."
The company behind TikTok, ByteDance, was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs in Beijing in 2012. The company previously said that global institutional investors, such as the Carlyle Group own 60% of the company.
The House version of the bill, HB 1445, was introduced by Representative Jeremy Faison (R - Cosby). Representative John Ray Clemmons (D - Nashville) asked whether Faison would roll the bill until after federal discussions about TikTok were over. He declined to do that.
Faison also denied that the bill mentioned TikTok specifically, but said he was only aware of one app the bill would affect — TikTok. He said that he wanted more security from Chinese businesses. Clemmons asked whether the state should also be worried about hardware and other software made in China, such as iPhones or computers.
Faison said he would support a bill that targeted those other products.
Representative John Ragan (R - Oak Ridge) also asked if the bill would allow "us to shoot Chinese panda bears" to laughter on the House floor.
Representative Bo Mitchell (D - Nashville) said he supported the bill because he believed in taking steps to secure information from Chinese leaders. He also said that another app that acted as "an alternative to Twitter that was bankrolled by the Chinese" would also need to be banned.
The bill is now headed to Governor Bill Lee's desk. He can either sign it into law, let it become law without his signature or attempt to veto it.
It specifically would not apply to institutions or employees if they need to download apps affiliated with the Chinese government for law enforcement purposes, for "investigatory functions" for public safety purposes, or to audit the university.
TikTok has come under fire in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific, where a growing number of governments have banned the app from devices used for official business over worries it poses risks to cybersecurity and data privacy or could be used to push pro-Beijing narratives and misinformation.
The app's CEO spoke with Congress on Thursday, saying that they prioritized safety and denying that it posed a national security risk. The app has around 150 million U.S. users.