Amid increasing calls nationwide to ban TikTok over security concerns, Florida’s education panel took a crucial step in the latest effort to keep the controversial yet popular social media app out of the state.
The State University System of Florida Board of Governors unveiled an emergency regulation affecting college students across Florida universities on March 29. Due to the increasing landscape of cyber threats, this regulation bans using six apps, including TikTok, when using campus Wi-Fi or school-owned devices.
A platform where users can discover, create and share short-form videos, the social media app TikTok is owned and operated by ByteDance, a Chinese company based in Beijing. The U.S.’s concerns are the Chinese government could infiltrate the company and obtain data the app collects about its users.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., pushed for a “digital bill of rights” across the Sunshine State in early February, pressuring lawmakers to ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices and block its access to the internet used by Florida public schools, universities and government offices.
Later the same month, the White House announced federal agencies had a month to remove TikTok from government-issued devices as outlined in the No TikTok on Government Devices Act the Senate passed in December.
This ban also comes on the heels of congressional hearings last month where legislators grilled TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew about the app’s affiliations with the Chinese government and demanded answers to concerns the platform could compromise its 150 million American users’ private data.
“Therefore … the Board unanimously approved an emergency regulation prohibiting the use of TikTok and other foreign actors identified as an immediate national security risk across our 12 public university campuses,” the Board of Governors said.
By Wednesday, nine of the state’s 12 public universities — from Florida State University and Florida Atlantic University to the University of Florida and New College of Florida — broke the news to its hundreds of thousands of students.
In an email, the University of Florida urged students to delete the applications from their devices.
“Taking this action will help protect your personal information as well as university data,” the email read in part.
“Florida Atlantic is taking immediate actions to protect the University from potential threats posed by certain applications or websites of concern,” FAU wrote to students and faculty.
Another email from the University of South Florida informed students the ban was an effort to “implement measures to protect our students, faculty and staff against potential cyber threats.”
Despite these rising concerns and the introduction of this ban laying the groundwork for other states to follow suit, “TikTok has taken unprecedented actions to address national security concerns by securing U.S. user data on U.S. soil,” TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide told CNN.