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Thursday, November 30, 2023

UF bans TikTok, other platforms on university network following other universities

Emergency state bill allowed for ban

Beginning Wednesday, UF students will need to disconnect from UF’s Wi-Fi network if they want to continue using a list of social media platforms the state has deemed a cybersecurity risk.

Around 12:30 p.m., UF banned social media platforms like TikTok and WeChat across campus. Students and faculty will be unable to access the applications through campus networks and or own the app on university-controlled devices. 

Conducting university marketing or advertising through the apps and their installation on university-owned devices is also prohibited.

“The university strongly recommends that everyone discontinue the use of these prohibited technologies and remove the apps from their personal devices,” the statement read. “Taking this action will help protect your personal information as well as university data.”

This announcement follows bans across state universities, such as Florida State University Tuesday and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University on March 17. 

The ban will take effect immediately, meaning it will be banned from UF’s Wi-Fi networks — eduroam and UF guest.

This announcement comes as the Digital Bill of Rights moves through the legislature. The bill, supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, bans all social media platforms with ties to China on state government devices, as well as on public school campuses, including colleges and universities. In particular, the TikTok app has created controversy in the legislature and on campus.

A state education panel approved an emergency regulation March 28 allowing for bans on TikTok, WeChat and other platforms on public university campuses in Florida. This also extends to Tencent QQ, VKontakte, and Kaspersky.

Board of Governors member Alan Levine, who has been encouraging the ban since the beginning of the year, emphasized the threat of TikTok to academic and intellectual property on Florida campuses at the meeting.

“It gives [universities] the flexibility to adapt to whatever other dangers come down the pike,” Levine said, “But I’ve seen enough and heard enough to know that this is an immediate threat to our faculty in their research.” 

TikTok CEO Shou Chew unsuccessfully lobbied to protect TikTok on the U.S. Senate floor March 23, also creating a viral moment with U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Gainesville. Chew insisted TikTok doesn’t share information with the Chinese government. 

“The bottom line is this: American data stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel," Chew said during the hearing. 

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Throughout his testimony, lawmakers noted his responses as evasive. At one point, Chew was asked if ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, was used to spy on Americans. Chew said, “No.” 

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Tallahasee, then inquired about reports accusing TikTok of being used to monitor Americans’ locations. Chew responded, “I don’t think spying is the way to put it.”

Throughout the hearing, no members of Congress offered support for TikTok.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilrakis, R-Brooksville, demonstrated a compilation of TikTok videos seemingly glorifying self-harm.

"Your technology is literally leading to death," Bilirakis said. 

Contact Peyton at Follow her on Twitter @peytonlharris.

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Peyton Harris

Peyton Harris is a first-year English major and the News Assistant for The Alligator. She is also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and spends her free time re-listening to Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and binging Criminal Minds.

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