North Texas Daily

UNT bans TikTok on school networks

UNT bans TikTok on school networks

UNT bans TikTok on school networks
January 26
10:15 2023

Starting this semester, the university has blocked the usage of TikTok on all campus networks in order to comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s December directive that banned TikTok on government devices.

Residence halls at the university will continue to have access to TikTok due to the Wi-Fi network being run by a third-party network.

“As a result of Governor Abbott’s directive to all state agencies banning employees from using or downloading TikTok on all state-issued or managed devices and environments, the UNT System immediately moved into action to implement several controls across all of its campuses and locations,” said Laken Rapier, North Texas System chief communications officer, in an email to the North Texas Daily. “These actions include leveraging endpoint configuration management tools, as well as blocking access via our networks.”

Other universities, such as Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at Dallas, have also banned TikTok on school networks, either at the start of the spring semester or immediately following Gov. Abbott’s directive.

The TikTok bans on university campuses in Texas affect the largest group of users of the app. Forty-eight percent of people ages 18-29 use TikTok, according to Pew Research Center. 

Gov. Abbott’s reasoning for the directive is rooted in national security. In a letter sent to state agencies on Dec. 7, Gov. Abbott stated that TikTok “offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese Government.” Because of the safety concerns outlined in the directive, Gov. Abbott banned “government-issued devices” from using the social media app.

Gov. Abbott banned “government-issued devices” from using the social media app.

“If the servers are located in China, then the Chinese government has the capability to look at anything on them,” said Harold Tanner, a history professor at the university who specializes in modern China and Chinese military history. 

In June 2022, TikTok stated that “100% of U.S. user traffic” was being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, which exclusive reporting from “Buzzfeed News” found was accessed repeatedly by the Chinese operating components of TikTok. Multiple states including Texas have stated that ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, continues to give the Chinese government information.

“[It’s] fair to say that the Chinese state and Chinese military are certainly engaged in cyber espionage, data collecting, and so on,” Tanner said.

Clubs and organizations that were active on TikTok prior to the ban have since stopped posting. TikTok accounts such as Scrappy’s account and UNT Cheerleading have posted as recently as Dec. 31, but have not posted since. Integrated studies sophomore Charlie Evangelista finds the ban “a bit silly” considering the usage of the app on campus. 

“I myself don’t use TikTok a lot, even before this TikTok ban,” Evangelista said. “But I did know quite a few organizations and departments here at UNT that used TikTok for mostly promotional activities.”

Although security and safety for students are important, Evangelista said “there are other ways” to keep students safe.

“I don’t think it’s exclusively [about] cybersecurity,” Evangelista said. “I think that’s just a thinly-veiled reason [for] blocking an app that they have political reasons to block for their own agenda.”

In a statement made in December, TikTok spokesman Jamal Brown said the company was disappointed states were blocking the application’s usage.

“It is unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, and universities on TikTok in those states will no longer be able to use it to build communities and connect with constituents,” Brown said.

In the same letter to state agencies, Gov. Abbott gave state agencies until Feb. 15, 2023, to give their “own policy governing the use of TikTok on personal devices.” 

“We will be monitoring any further developments and requirements as outlined by the Office of the Governor, Texas Department of Public Safety or the Texas Department of Information Resources to ensure our continued compliance,” Rapier said in an email to the Daily.

Featured Image A phone displaying the TikTok logo is held in front of the Hurley Administration Building on Jan. 24, 2023. Photo by Marco Barrera

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Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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