Texas universities are blocking access to TikTok on all devices connected to campus networks to “remove cyber security risks.”
Officials from the University of North Texas and the University of Texas schools at Austin, Dallas, Arlington and Tyler said the popular app could not be used on campus Wi-Fi networks in accordance with a recent directive from Gov. Greg Abbott.
“The university is taking these important steps to address the risks to the information contained on the university network and to our critical infrastructure,” Jeff Neyland, technology strategy advisor to the president of UT, wrote in a letter to students on Tuesday.
The UNT system blocked the app on all of its campus networks on Jan. 10, according to a system-wide newsletter.
UT-Dallas and UT-Tyler began blocking TikTok on devices connected to their networks starting Tuesday evening.
Schools are joining a growing number of campuses across the country that have blocked the app on school devices or Wi-Fi networks, according to CNN.
TikTok spokesman Jamal Brown said in a statement that app officials are worried about “unintended consequences… of these hasty rules” for schools, such as the impact on their ability to share information, recruit students and build communities.
“We are disappointed that so many states are joining in a political win to adopt policies that do nothing to improve cybersecurity in their states and are based on unsubstantiated lies about TikTok,” Brown said.
In early December, Abbott ordered government agencies to ban employees from downloading or using TikTok on any government-owned devices because the app “collects massive amounts of data from its users’ devices.”
A whopping 31 states have taken similar steps to restrict TikTok on government devices.
TikTok, launched in 2016, is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. App officials estimate that it has over 100 million monthly active users.
Abbott has previously expressed concern that its use could lead to the transfer of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government, surveillance, influence operations, or censorship of topics that may be politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, such as the Tiananmen Square protests.
UT, UT-Dallas, UNT System, and Texas Woman’s University previously instructed employees to immediately remove TikTok from all government-issued devices, including university-owned mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and desktops, following Abbott’s directive.
UT representatives declined to comment further.
Several federal agencies already ban the use of TikTok on their devices, including the US Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security.