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The TikTok ban could tell Kansas, Kansas State to delete the app and accounts

If you enjoy watching short video highlights of the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats playing basketball or football, that content may soon disappear from the TikTok app.

Kansas lawmakers are moving forward with a bill to ban TikTok from state government devices, ban state agencies from having TikTok accounts, and ban anyone from using TikTok on a statewide network. Agencies with accounts would be required to cancel their accounts.

The bill expands on an executive order from Gov. Laura Kelly, which applies only to agencies directly under her control. It would apply to all state agencies, including state boards, institutions and their subdivisions, such as the Kansas Board of Regents and state universities.

Both the University of Kansas and Kansas State University are active on TikTok, but far more popular are their athletic department accounts dedicated to KU basketball and K-State football. They show dunk and 3-point highlights, crowd shots, behind-the-scenes with players, and other vertical video content that doesn’t appear elsewhere.

“K-State is assessing the impact banning TikTok would have on all aspects of the university, including student engagement and recruitment,” said Michelle Geering, a university spokeswoman. “We will monitor the progress of this bill.”

Spokesmen for KU and KU Athletics did not respond to a request for comment. Not even a Regents spokesperson.

Wichita State University spokeswoman Lainie Mazzullo-Hart says the school does not currently have a ban on TikTok, but is monitoring legislation and “must adhere to any restrictions imposed by law.”

Requiring state networks to block TikTok would mean the app would be unusable on campus WiFi for students, teachers, or visitors unless they turned off WiFi and used phone service.

“The proposed legislation is not believed to have a significant impact on WSU students because TikTok would still be accessible through non-college devices when connected through another network, such as a mobile network provider,” Mazzullo-Hart said.

TikTok has become a recruiting tool as the third most popular social media application globally, behind Facebook and Instagram. The app is even more popular among American teenagers, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

One of WSU’s pinned videos highlights in-state tuition offerings for select out-of-state students. KU posted one this month responding “what does a school in Kansas have to offer?” In December, K-State released a video interviewing winter grads with tips for incoming students.

“WSU remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of its students, research and data and is prepared to shift its communications as needed,” Mazzullo-Hart said.

Moreover:Gov. Laura Kelly to ban TikTok on state-owned devices amid national concerns over Chinese ownership

Why Kansas lawmakers want to ban TikTok?

Rep. Cyndi Howerton, R-Wichita, introduced the bill, HB 2314, amid widespread cybersecurity concerns centered around TikTok’s connections to China. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The bill provides exceptions for state workers who use TikTok for law enforcement and cybersecurity investigations.

“If it were up to me, we would ban every piece of mobile app or website originating from China, but that’s another day,” said Representative Stephen Owens, R-Hesston, after reading a China quote from Mike The New Book of Pompey.

Republican and Democratic officials fear potential violations of privacy and security by the Chinese government. The FBI has warned of “national security concerns.”

“TikTok is a known miner of user data and has potential ties to the Communist Party of China. This bill is a proactive step to protect the privacy and safety of Kansans,” said House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R- Wichita.

The bill passed the committee quickly, despite concerns from some Representatives that they should have spent more time considering its ramifications. Thursday passed the full House with 109 votes in favor and 12 against. The effect on universities and their athletic departments has not been discussed.

It still has to go through the Senate before going to governor.

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