FL schools ban TikTok, FAU may follow suit

PBSC is banning TikTok effective by March 31, following in UF’s footsteps. FAU may be next.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Elisabeth Gaffney, Staff Writer

Multiple bills regarding the use of TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, on agency devices and college campus networks have surfaced in recent months, including Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Digital Bill of Rights, which bans any apps that have ties to China in educational institutions.

Colleges across the U.S. are banning TikTok, with the University of Florida being one of the first in the state to follow through on Jan. 12. Palm Beach State College (PBSC) will ban the app and other Chinese applications on the campus network effective March 31, according to an email sent by PBSC’s IT department to students, faculty, and staff.

PBSC News and Media Relations Coordinator Tabatha MacDonald declined to comment.

Following PBSC’s ban, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University released a statement on March 7 stating that TikTok is prohibited on all FAMU devices and wifi. Florida State University is also considering a ban. 

With this trajectory, it seems FAU may follow suit.

A TikTok ban would affect students living in residence halls that use the app recreationally, as well as multiple FAU departments that use the app consistently for marketing purposes, such as Dining Services and FAU Libraries.

Associate Vice President of Media Relations and Public Affairs, Joshua Glanzer, declined to comment for FAU and FAU’s marketing department, citing a policy prohibiting commenting on pending legislation.

Julia Beaubien, a freshman, said TikTok is how she falls asleep and wakes up, and that she would be upset if it wasn’t allowed on campus.

“I don’t think [students] would enjoy being here as much because TikTok is a huge part of social media and how kids connect with each other, and I think FAU as a whole would just kind of be upset because that’s how they market their ideas towards kids,” said Beaubien.

As of now, it is up to colleges and universities to independently decide whether to ban TikTok.

Theoretically, if TikTok is already installed, students may still be able to access its content, as the government cannot force people to uninstall the app. However, it may not be functional at all. The usability of TikTok after a ban is still uncertain.

The bills mentioned above came about after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) called for the prohibition of TikTok in November 2022 in an opinion article for the Washington Post.

TikTok CEO. Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress on March 23 to defend the suspected privacy practices of the app regarding finances, data, and youth safety.

“As TikTok has grown, we’ve tried to learn the lessons of companies that have come before us, especially when it comes to the safety of teenagers,” said Chew.

Chew went on to explain ByteDance’s privacy efforts, consisting of the prohibition of direct messaging if under 16 years of age and a 60-minute screen time limit — which teens are able to bypass, said Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes.

Additionally, Chew said the company plans to move TikTok’s user data onto American soil where it would not be reached by the Chinese government in an attempt to prove that ByteDance has no intention of manipulating the privacy of individuals and U.S. government agencies.

Lawmakers were not convinced.

TikTok’s Privacy Policy uses similar privacy practices as other social media apps, claiming to only gather public information from users and about users, according to Anokhy Desai, a Westin fellow at the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

“TikTok’s data collection is nothing out of the ordinary for social media apps,” wrote Desai. “The reality of the availability of user data is that it’s not user-friendly in countries that have yet to enact a comprehensive data privacy law; if any government wants access to user data, they can buy it from third-party entities.”

Elisabeth Gaffney is a Staff Writer for the University Press. For more information on this article or others, you can reach Elisabeth at [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @elisabethgaff.