Why TikTok is Being Banned by Universities, Governments

  • Learn about the major concerns surrounding TikTok and take action to protect yourself

U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) have introduced a bipartisan bill that would ban TikTok and other social media platforms controlled or influenced by America’s foreign adversaries, including China, Russia, and Iran. 

This legislation follows decisive action by at least ten Governors to ban TikTok from public devices in their states and comes on the heels of a new wave of bipartisan concern with TikTok. 

Administration officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, have spoken out publicly about concerning threats posed by TikTok. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has stated that there is now widespread consensus in the U.S. that TikTok presents an unacceptable risk to national security and the safety and privacy of millions of Americans, and has called for the Administration to complete its ongoing national security review of TikTok, which is being run out of the Treasury Department. 

With this bipartisan consensus in mind, Commissioner Carr has reiterated his call for the Administration to act with the urgency that this national security threat demands and ban TikTok.

Universities Ban TikTok

Auburn University and 26 public universities and colleges in Georgia have reportedly been required to ban TikTok due to state government bans. TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter stated that the bans are based on “unfounded falsehoods” and that the company is working with the U.S. government to address national security concerns. 

The University of Oklahoma is joining the growing list of universities, governments, and organizations that are banning TikTok. According to an email sent to students on Tuesday, the school will be barring internet access for the app in compliance with Governor Kevin Stitt’s executive order prohibiting the use of TikTok on state devices. “Effective immediately, no University employee or student shall access the TikTok application or website on University-owned or operated devices, including O.U. wired and wireless networks,” wrote David Horton, the Chief Information Officer, and Senior Associate Vice President. 

Iowa State University has mandated the removal of TikTok from all devices owned, leased, or controlled by the university. This decision comes following a directive from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds to ban TikTok on state-owned devices due to national security risks. “It is clear that TikTok represents a national security risk to our country, and I refuse to subject the citizens of Iowa to that risk,” Reynolds stated. “They trust us with their personal and confidential information, and we will take every step possible to protect it, including from the Chinese government.”

One primary concern is the issue of data privacy and security. Some experts are raising concerns about the company’s ability to collect and use personal data in potentially harmful ways. “There are genuine concerns about TikTok’s data collection practices and whether the company is fully transparent about how it uses and protects user data,” said John Reed Stark, a cybersecurity expert and former SEC enforcement official, in an interview with NPR.

There are also fears that TikTok may share user data with third parties, including the Chinese government, which has raised concerns about the potential for data misuse or abuse. For example, in August 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it would ban TikTok on government-owned devices due to concerns about the platform’s data collection practices. “There are genuine concerns about the potential for TikTok to collect and use personal data in ways that may be unethical or harmful to users, as well as fears that the company may share user data with third parties, including the Chinese government,” according to an article in Forbes.

Political censorship is another major concern, as there have been allegations that TikTok censors or suppresses content related to sensitive political topics, particularly in the Chinese market. “TikTok has been accused of censoring content related to sensitive political topics, particularly in the Chinese market, which raises concerns about the company’s commitment to freedom of expression,” according to The Guardian. This has raised concerns about the potential for TikTok to be used to spread government propaganda or suppress dissent, as well as questions about TikTok’s commitment to freedom of expression and open dialogue.

Other concerns raised include the potential for TikTok to contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and social comparison and the potential for the app to become addictive or lead to excessive use. There have also been concerns about TikTok’s handling of online safety issues, including the potential for the platform to be used for cyberbullying and other harmful behavior.

In light of these concerns, universities, governments, and other organizations have mandated the removal of TikTok.

So, what can you do to protect yourself regarding TikTok and other social media platforms? Here are some recommendations:

  • Review your privacy and security settings: Make sure you are aware of the information you share on TikTok and take steps to protect your personal data. This may include adjusting your privacy settings and being cautious about sharing sensitive information.
  • Stay up to date on the latest developments: Keep an eye on the news and stay informed about the latest developments related to TikTok’s data collection practices and other concerns. This can help you make informed decisions about your use of the app.
  • Consider alternative platforms: If you are concerned about the risks associated with TikTok, consider using alternative platforms offering similar features and functionality.
  • Support efforts to promote transparency and accountability: Consider supporting efforts to promote transparency and accountability in the social media industry, including efforts to address data privacy and security concerns.
  • Seek support if you are struggling: If you are struggling with addiction or overuse of TikTok or any other social media platform, or if you are experiencing negative impacts on your mental health, it is important to seek support. This may include seeking help from a mental health professional or seeking support from friends and family.