“You’re not you will be able to access TikTok on any device for longer if you are connected to the university using its wired or WIFI networks.
That’s according to a notice appearing on students’ devices at the University of Texas at Austin after the school announced it would block the social media app from using the university’s WiFi and servers. The decision came in response to an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott banning the app from state-owned devices due to security concerns. However, students can still carry a gun on campus.
“As outlined in the governor’s directive, TikTok collects massive amounts of data from its users’ devices, including when, where and how they conduct activities on the Internet, and offers this amount of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” UT-Austin Technology Advisor. Jeff Neyland wrote in an email to The Texas Tribune.
The announcement was a virtual word-for-word reiteration of Abbott’s December ban on charging and using the app on government-issued devices.
The app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, has tried to ease lawmakers’ concerns about cybersecurity. In June 2022, the app announced that it would migrate American user data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. But efforts to persuade lawmakers have largely failed, with several states issuing governors’ device bans similar to Abbott’s and lawmakers in Congress pushing for a nationwide ban on the app.
Other universities, including Auburn University, Boise State University, the University of Oklahoma and the University System of Georgia, have also implemented bans similar to UT-Austin’s.
While students and faculty will no longer be able to access TikTok over campus WiFi under the guise of their own safety and that of the university, they can still carry a firearm on campus under Abbott’s guidance. Texas’ “campus carry” laws allow students to carry concealed handguns on campus, including in classrooms.
Texas has seen some of the nation’s worst mass shootings in recent history, including the 2022 massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, and the 2019 killing of 23 at an El Paso Walmart. UT-Austin experienced its own mass shooting in 1966, when a gunman shot and killed 15 people and injured 31 others from the observation deck of the university’s iconic main building tower. While digital safety is certainly a concern, the difference in Texas government’s priorities for student and community safety is striking.