BY STEPHEN NEUKAM
January 17, 2023
The University of Texas at Austin has barred access to the social media platform TikTok on its Wi-Fi network after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) banned the application from use on government devices.
The university told students in an email on Tuesday obtained by The Hill that it was taking the step to comply with Abbott’s December directive to “eliminate the cybersecurity risk posed by TikTok.”
“Today, the university blocked TikTok access on our networks,” the university said in the email. “You are no longer able to access TikTok on any device if you are connected to the university via its wired or WIFI networks.”
The platform’s ban on a campus of more than 52,000 students is the latest in a string of moves by Democratic- and Republican-controlled states to eliminate the use of the app on government devices.
The backlash to TikTok stems from its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance, raising concerns at the federal and state level that it could harvest and supply sensitive information to the Chinese government.
“As outlined in the governor’s directive, TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices — including when, where and how they conduct internet activity — and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” the university’s announcement continued.
The university’s athletic department has a TikTok account that boasts nearly 260,000 followers. It has not posted on the platform since November.
“We’re 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 are based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.
“We’re especially sorry to see the unintended consequences of these rushed policies beginning to impact universities’ ability to share information, recruit students, and build communities around athletic teams, student groups, campus publications, and more,” it added.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ordered a ban of the app on state devices earlier this month. At least 24 other states have taken similar action.
After Murphy banned the platform in his state, he and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) sent a letter to other governors urging them to ban the app.
“As the federal government works toward an overarching solution, we encourage our fellow Governors to join the growing number of states taking action,” the governors said in the January letter. “By acting against foreign cyberthreats like TikTok, Governors can protect our states, bolster national security, and ensure our citizens can trust our states’ systems.”
Updated: 3:47 p.m.