The University of Wisconsin joined a series of think tanks across the United States that have banned the popular social media app TikTok on school-owned devices. Others have even banned the app from their WiFi networks, which also has an impact on personal devices.
UW system officials made the announcement Tuesday. Several universities have banned the app in recent weeks, including Arkansas State, Auburn, Oklahoma, Georgia, Idaho State and Iowa.
This despite the fact that universities often use TikTok accounts as a recruiting tool to connect with high school students.
According to a count of NBCNews, at least 20 public universities have made the decision to ban the application from their servers or have recommended that their students remove it from their personal devices. In the case of Texas A&M, one of the largest public universities in the country with almost 75,000 students, TikTok has been totally banned.
That veto even reached the university’s popular Physics and Astronomy profile, which had more than 1.5 million followers. In their bio, they announced, “We no longer post on TikTok. Visit our YouTube to see the latest videos.” And they haven’t uploaded new videos since December 6th.
Some students dissatisfied with the measure try to access their personal devices using mobile data or personal Wi-Fi networks, but They admit that the veto makes access difficult.
TikTok is consumed by two-thirds of American teens and has become the second most popular domain in the world. But there has long been a bipartisan concern in Washington that Beijing will use its legal and regulatory power to seize US user data or try to spread pro-China messages or disinformation.
Nearly half of the states have banned the app on state-owned devices, including Mississippi, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Congress also recently banned TikTok from most US government devices over bipartisan security concerns.
TikTok is owned by bytedance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. It has been in the crosshairs of critics who say the Chinese government could access user data such as browsing history and location. The US military has also banned the app on military devices.
TikTok is consumed by two-thirds of American teens and has become the second most popular domain in the world. But there has long been a bipartisan concern in Washington that Beijing will use its legal and regulatory power to seize the data of American users or to try to push pro-China narratives or disinformation.
WHAT WORRIES ABOUT TIKTOK?
Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that user data of TikTok could be shared by its owner, ByteDance Ltd., with China’s authoritarian government. US authorities are also concerned that the Chinese government could use TikTok to spread pro-China messages or misinformation.
“If we have national security concernssaid FBI Director Christopher Wray at a Homeland Security Committee hearing in November. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control the data collection from millions of users”.
Fears were fanned last year by news that a China-based team improperly accessed data from American TikTok users, including two journalists, as part of an undercover surveillance program to uncover the source of press leaks. .
There are also fears that the company is sending large amounts of user data to China, in contravention of strict European privacy rules.
Additionally, there have been concerns about the content on TikTok and whether it harms the mental health of adolescents.
WHO HAS DRIVEN THE RESTRICTIONS?
In 2020, the then president donald trump and his administration tried to ban dealings with the owner of TikTok, force it to sell its US assets and remove it from app stores. Courts blocked Trump’s attempts to ban TikTok, and President Joe Biden reversed Trump’s orders after taking office but ordered an in-depth study of the issue. The project to sell TikTok’s assets in the United States was postponed.
In Congress, Concern over the app has been bipartisan. Congress last month banned the use of TikTok on most US government devices for security reasons.
In December, the Senate passed a version of the TikTok ban authored by conservative Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a staunch critic of big tech companies.
But Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois has cosponsored legislation to ban TikTok entirely from operating in the United States, and the measure passed by Congress in December had the support of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
WHAT DOES TIKTOK SAY?
“We are disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies that will do nothing to advance cybersecurity in their states and that are based on unsubstantiated falsehoods about TikTok,” Jamal Brown, a spokesman for TikTok, said in a statement sent by email.
TikTok is developing data privacy and security plans as part of an ongoing national security review by President Joe Biden’s administration.
(With information from AP)