Auburn University recently banned the social media platform TikTok from the university’s WiFi, servers, and devices.
The decision follows state bans over concerns that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is collecting user data for espionage and curating content to present China more favorably.
Auburn’s ban “is in response to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s recent statewide ban of the app for all government agencies and networks,” according to Insider.
“We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies that will do nothing to advance cybersecurity in their states and are based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok,” Jamal Brown with TikTok Communications told Campus Reform.
“We’re especially sorry to see the unintended consequences of these rushed policies beginning to impact universities’ ability to share information, recruit students, and build communities around athletic teams, student groups, campus publications, and more.”
Brown worked for President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign before serving as “deputy press secretary for the Pentagon,” according to the New York Post.
The Trump administration issued an executive order banning TikTok’s app on smartphones in 2020, but Biden canceled the order, The Boston Globereported.
Democratic legislators have recently joined Republicans in their concerns over TikTok, however.
The Boston Globe said that at least 18 other states have banned TikTok, and legislation introduced by Senator Marco Rubio would “block access to any social media network controlled by China, Russia,” and other “authoritarian governments.”
Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) share in their concern.
One of the FCC commissioners said that the U.S. should ban TikTok “outright,” according to The New York Times Magazine. The same source also referenced leaked audio obtained by Buzzfeed revealing that ByteDance employees in China have access to American users’ data.
This data, Buzzfeed said, is “nonpublic” and includes “phone numbers and birthdays.”
TikTok also receives criticism for an algorithm that promotes videos that are favorable to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) while suppressing videos of its human rights violations. “The company had already been accused of censoring content considered politically sensitive in China,” such as “the repression of the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang Province,” The New York Times Magazine reads.
Over one million Uyghurs, a Muslim minority living in the autonomous Xinjiang region, have been interned in “re-education centers.”
As government officials address TikTok propaganda from the CCP, Campus Reform has reported on the CCP’s influence on American colleges and universities. Earlier this month, Chinese international students protested China’s zero COVID policies amidst fears that CCP spies would identify them and intimidate their families.
Campus Reform also reported that despite universities “terminating Confucius Institutes on campus,” the institutes are merely renaming themselves and receiving funding from the Department of Defense (DOD).
The report cited the National Association of Scholars (NAS), which defines Confucius Institutes as “centers that teach Chinese language and culture.” The Chinese government funds these institutes, and though “[t]he State Department warned of ‘malign influence,’” NAS said that universities “appear eager to replace their Confucius Institutes with other forms of engagement with China.”
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