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Texas Universities Ban TikTok On Campus Networks

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Most Texas public universities have banned TikTok after a mandate from Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) banning the Chinese-based social media app from state-issued devices over its threat to national security. 

The University of Texas at Austin was one of the first public universities in the state to announced that the app would be blocked on campus Wi-Fi and wired networks Tuesday.

“The university is taking these important steps to eliminate risks to information contained in the university’s network and to our critical infrastructure,” technology adviser Jeff Neyland said in an email to students, according to the Texas Tribune.

“As outlined in the governor’s directive, TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices — including when, where and how they conduct internet activity — and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” Neyland added. 

Since the announcement, spokespeople for other Texas universities, including the Texas A&M University System, have announced they are also restricting the use of the app on their campus networks. 

“[W]e are in the process of putting in place network based filtering that will block both wireless and wired access to downloading or accessing the app from our campus network, which means students, faculty, staff and visitors will not be able to use the app when connected to an A&M network,” said Laylan Copelin, spokesperson for the Texas A&M University System.

Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that TikTok would be banned on state-issued devices. Abbott pointed to the warnings from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said he is “extremely concerned” about TikTok’s operations in the United States.

“The preservation of the safety and security of Texas is foremost among the duties of our offices,” Abbott wrote in a letter to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan. “The threat of the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate the United States continues to grow. While the federal government holds the ultimate responsibility for foreign policy issues, the State also has the responsibility and opportunity to protect itself.”

Abbott explained, “TikTok is a video-sharing mobile application with more than 85 million users in the United States. It belongs to a Chinese company called ByteDance Ltd., which employs Chinese Communist Party members and has a subsidiary that is partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices—including when, where, and how they conduct internet activity—and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government.”

“While TikTok has claimed that it stores U.S. data within the U.S., the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees can have access to U.S. data,” Abbott continued. “It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens. Further, under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work, including data sharing, and TikTok’s algorithm has already censored topics politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, including the Tiananmen Square protests.”

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