Florida looks to ban TikTok social media app at state universities

Girl holding phone with TikTok logo – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Ti Vla

University administrators in Florida are debating whether to forbid students from using TikTok on twelve campuses spread out throughout the state.

Board of Governors members for state institutions supported enacting a system-wide policy banning the app during their meeting on Tuesday in Miami. Given the growing attention surrounding the Beijing-based corporation, the adjustment may be implemented within the next two months.

The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma are two institutions that have already barred TikTok from their networks.

“As a state university system, we have an obligation to protect our research,” said Alan Levine, president and CEO of Ballad Health who chairs the BOG’s strategic planning committee.

Due to security concerns and legislative instructions calling for access restrictions to the app, an increasing number of states and institutions have taken action against TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Numerous states have laws against it, and colleges are working to prevent students from using TikTok on school-owned devices and Wi-Fi.

One of the first educational institutions in Florida to take action against TikTok is the University of Florida, which advises students to uninstall the app and stop using it. Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, and other Florida authorities are urging schools to take more measures to combat the app.

“It’s very concerning having TikTok on our university campuses,” Patronis wrote in a tweet Monday. “We are the most innovative country on the planet and we are allowing this app to go unchecked. All of the Chancellors need to make this a priority, and if they don’t, Trustees should get involved.”

The Board of Governors members agreed on Tuesday to pursue new laws regarding TikTok at Florida colleges, indicating that the message is hitting home with them.

“When you think about the potential dangers to students and their data, and the potential dangers to our faculty and the work and the labor they’ve put into research, and the danger to the taxpayers of the theft of that research, all of this together means we probably need a policy statewide,” Levine said.

The agenda for the meeting on Tuesday did not include any actions against TikTok. Levine instead casually asked BOG members whether they were interested in making a move, and several members of the board nodded in agreement.

Levine stated that he wants university administrators to work with him to develop a statewide regulation for the app that may be brought up at the upcoming regular BOG meeting. A conference call with the board is scheduled for February, and a regular meeting is scheduled for March.

“You could talk about the anxiety-inducing tool of conformity that TikTok has been called, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue,” said BOG member Timothy Cerio, general counsel and Chief Legal Officer of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. “But I think this is the right direction we need to go – we need to protect our intellectual material.”

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