Several Texas universities have blocked access to TikTok while using campus Wi-Fi in compliance with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order.
The universities banning the popular social media platform include the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas at Dallas.
On Tuesday, UT Austin sent students a letter outlining the new policy.
“Recently, UT Austin began the process of removing TikTok from all government-issued devices,” the letter began. “Today, the university blocked TikTok access on our networks. You are no longer able to access TikTok on any device if you are connected to the university via its wired or WIFI networks.”
Shortly thereafter, UT Dallas issued a nearly identical statement that said limiting access on personal devices through public Wi-Fi would “eliminate risks to information contained in the university’s network and to our critical infrastructure.”
The UT campus bans adhere to Abbott’s recent executive order, signed on December 7.
Abbott’s executive order prohibits TikTok usage on state-owned devices and personal devices with access to state networks or .gov email accounts. State agencies have until February 15 to comply with the order.
In justification of the ban, Abbott said that TikTok is “partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party … [and] harvests vast amounts of data,” which it shares with the Chinese government.
The order makes a small exception for criminal investigations. However, UT professors Natalie Jomini Stroud and Samuel Woolley argued that these exceptions should also extend to universities because of TikTok’s potential to be used as an instructional aid.
“Without access to TikTok, those at state agencies … are limited in their capacity to provide relevant information,” explained Stroud and Woolley in an opinion article for the Austin American-Statesman.
“Limited access to TikTok hamstrings our ability to study today’s most disruptive information space,” the professors continued. “Our media ethics case studies program must now advise students not to write about the most dominant communication platform in many of their lives.”
TikTok is extremely popular, especially among younger Americans. Recent studies by the Pew Research Center found that a quarter of young adults get their news from TikTok, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Despite the widespread popularity of the social media app, TikTok has received scrutiny from legislators questioning its data storage methods and potential ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
During a September Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas admitted several TikTok employees were based in China but could neither confirm nor deny their “political affiliations.”
Abbott’s order was followed by a similar federal ban outlined in a 4,126-page spending bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 29.