University of Wisconsin System joins nationwide trend by banning TikTok from campus devices

UW Spokesman Mark Pitsch confirmed with Campus Reform that the school system 'will be restricting the TikTok application on System-owned devices.'

FBI Director Christopher Wray contends that Chinese control over the platform’s algorithm and user data poses a significant national security risk.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) System announced last week that it will be banning TikTok from its system devices, according to the Associated Press (AP).

UW Spokesman Mark Pitsch confirmed with Campus Reform that the school system “will be restricting the TikTok application on System-owned devices.”

Although Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’s (D) issued an executive order prohibiting TikTok from state government devices and networks, the UW system made the decision independently of the governor’s order because the system does not fall under executive branch jurisdiction, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“[I]n the digital age, maintaining cybersecurity is critical to state and national security and that new and emerging technologies and applications could pose future potential safety, security, and privacy risks,” the executive order reads.

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, denies that it shares US user data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). FBI Director Christopher Wray, however, contends that Chinese control over the platform’s algorithm and user data pose a significant national security risk, as reported by Business Insider.

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The UW system joins several other state universities and colleges that have made the same decision to protect their cybersecurity. To date, a total of 18 other state higher education institutions or systems had taken measures to ban TikTok from institution-owned devices and networks, according to NBC News.

And, across the country, 27 states and the federal government have prohibited the use of TikTok on government devices and networks, according to Business Insider.

Critics of these measures note that students and staff can circumvent network blocks against TikTok by utilizing cellular data or other sources of WiFi on their personal devices.

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Jamal Brown with TikTok Communications responded for request for comment by stating, “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.”

Brown continued, saying, “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 provided that answer verbatim when last contacted by Campus Reform for a report on TikTok’s connections to the CCP.

Follow Gabrielle M. Etzel on Twitter.