US colleges are banning TikTok on campus. But this popular TikTok creator is using hot spots and a sprinter van equipped with Starlink to work around the ban and reach his millions of followers.
- Multiple colleges have banned TikTok through their WiFi systems, citing security concerns.
- This decision has prompted creators and students to find alternative ways to access the app.
American colleges and universities are banning TikTok on campuses, but it's only a "small hurdle" for some creators and influencers who use the quad for content and rely on the income they get from the popular app.
Like Leon Ondieki, for instance.
Known as @leon.ond on the platform, the 20-year-old has garnered more than 2 million followers from his content. It consists of impromptu challenges, man-on-the-street interviews, and trivia games not only at the University of Georgia, where he attended school, but on other college campuses.
TikTok is his bread and butter and has helped him to pay his tuition out of pocket and avoid taking out student loans, Ondieki told Insider in a phone interview.
"I was able to pay off my college, my books, my living expenses... which was really nice. It gave me a lot of peace of mind. And then from there, I was able to buy my first car my freshman year in college," he said.
However, with the wave of colleges putting restrictions on accessing TikTok — citing national security and privacy concerns, per USA Today — Ondieki and creators like him are finding alternative ways to use the app.
@leon.ond That was interesting #college #interview #fyp ♬ original sound - Leon Ondieki
Multiple universities have been cracking down on TikTok and announced its removal from campus WiFi systems
The University of Georgia as well as other institutions in several states including Texas, and Alabama have recently announced various bans, the outlet reported. It comes after growing national security concerns from federal officials that the Chinese-owned social-media app could be used for espionage operations, Insider previously reported.
"There have been a lot of threats of TikTok bans over the past few years, so my initial reaction to this was, 'Not again,' because this is, it's just happening, but this time it's for real," Ondieki said.
"So, starting last year, I started to diversify the platforms which I'm posting on" as a precaution, he added.
Before the ban was announced, Ondieki made the decision to take a year off school to go on his second college tour and shoot content at different campuses with fellow social media creator, Wyatt Eiden, who has nearly 3 million followers on TikTok.
@wyatteiden How many did you count? #heelclick #funnyvideos #viral #wow #uga #godawgs Video style by @areyoukiddingtv ♬ original sound - Wyatt
Editing content on the go
The crew got a Mercedes Sprinter for their journey, which has satellite internet service provider Starlink, so "we could still continue editing and uploading wherever we are," Ondieki said. In addition, he continued, they also have a T-Mobile hot spot as a backup.
It was better this time around, compared to their last tour, Eiden, 23, told Insider.
"We were just living out of our cars and working when we can. Sometimes we'd stop at a library or at a school and work from there and use their WiFi," he said. "But this time, having the mobile workstation is going to help us a lot."
Ondieki said that this setup will come in handy specifically at one of their scheduled stops at the University of Texas at Austin. It is one of the biggest universities in the state, but it announced this month that students won't be able to access TikTok through the university's wired or WiFi networks following a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott.
However, although there is some concern, some students are not fazed and previously told Insider's Kieran Press-Reynolds that they are going to use their cellular service or VPNs to access the widely popular video-sharing app.
"I feel like colleges banning TikTok on their WiFi network is a small hurdle for creators, but it's not a complete obstruction," Ondieki said. "I feel like in the long run, creators are still going to find a way to post."
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