University implements TikTok ban per Gov. Abbott directive

Jessica McLaren, Assistant News Editor

UTSA has banned the use of TikTok on university networks following Governor Greg Abbott’s directive from early December, which mandated a ban on TikTok for all government-issued devices. Local news reports, which emerged on Jan. 18, revealed UTSA’s plan to ban the social media site.

“Per Governor Abbott’s directive to all state agencies, TikTok has been removed from state [and] university-issued phones and devices,” Joe Izbrand, UTSA’s chief communications officer, said in a statement to The Paisano. “Technical controls were put in place during the winter break that restricts individuals with personal devices from using UTSA networks to connect to and use the platform.”

TikTok is a video-sharing app that belongs to the Chinese tech company ByteDance Ltd. Since its launch in 2016, it has amassed over 85 million monthly U.S. users. The app uses algorithms based on user-generated data to track user habits and provide personalized content.

According to a press release from the Office of the Texas Governor, Abbott’s decision to ban TikTok was made in response to the growing security concerns regarding the app’s harvesting of user data. Texas is among at least 26 other states that have enacted measures to limit or restrict the use of TikTok on government devices and networks.

In a letter addressed to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan, Abbott further explains that TikTok collects vast amounts of user-generated data that could compromise sensitive information and critical infrastructure in the United States. Moreover, as outlined in the letter, Chinese companies such as ByteDance are not legally obligated to protect this data, as China’s National Intelligence Law requires them to assist in the country’s intelligence efforts, including data sharing.

Beyond UTSA, several schools in Texas have acted in accordance with Abbott’s directive, including Texas State University, Alamo Colleges and the entire UT system. On the other hand, officials at private universities such as the University of the Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake University and Trinity University have shared they have no current plans to block access to the social media app.