The biggest universities in Texas are blocking students from accessing TikTok on campus WiFi

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The biggest universities in Texas are blocking students from accessing TikTok on campus WiFi
"TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users' devices ... and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government," Gov. Greg Abbott said in December.Marco Bello/Reuters
  • Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin have blocked TikTok from campus WiFi.
  • Texan universities are also banning TikTok from devices under Gov. Greg Abbott's recent directive.
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Students and staff at some of Texas's biggest universities will no longer be able to scroll TikTok on campus WiFi while waiting for their next class or taking their lunch break.

Texas A&M University — thought to be the state's biggest university with close to 70,000 students — is blocking TikTok from its IT network under a directive by Governor Greg Abbott, local news outlets reported on Tuesday.

The University of Texas at Austin, which has around 52,000 students, made a similar announcement on Tuesday, saying that students wouldn't be able to access the video-sharing app if they were connected to the university's wired or WiFi networks.

Both universities had said they had already started removing the app from government-issued devices, including university-issued cell phones, laptops, tablets, and desktop computers. A&M told staff in December to delete the app, stop posting, and remove all links to TikTok from university webpages, local news outlet The Eagle reported.

Abbott issued a directive on December 6 ordering state agencies to ban their employees from downloading or using TikTok on any government-issued devices, citing cybersecurity concerns.

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"TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users' devices ... and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government," Abbott said in the directive. TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, is based in China.

FBI Director Chris Wray said in December that he had national-security concerns about TikTok and warned that China could use the app to collect user data for espionage operations.

Representatives for the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Houston – Downtown, Texas State University, Lamar University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio told Insider that they had banned TikTok on university-issued devices and on campus wired and wireless networks. The University of North Texas says on its website that it has done the same.

A spokesperson for the University of Houston told Insider that the college "immediately" ceased activity on all university-managed TikTok accounts following Abbott's order but hadn't made any changes to its wired and wireless services. The spokesperson added that the university had scanned more than 20,000 university-owned devices and removed the app from six of them.

"We no longer post to TikTok," A&M's Physics and Astromony Department wrote in the bio of its TikTok account, which has 1.5 million followers. It directed people to its YouTube channel instead. The department had previously posted on TikTok regularly, with many videos getting millions of views. It last posted the day before Abbott's directive was issued.

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Staff at Texas State and Lamar University, meanwhile, were told to not delete university-affiliated accounts but to make them private and remove all institutional branding, such as logos and contact information.

Lamar University and the University of Texas at Dallas told students that TikTok would continue to work at its residence halls. 

It's not just the Lone Star State. More than half of US states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices, including Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who all made the move in recent weeks. Colleges at other states have been blocking TikTok from their WiFi, too.

The University of Texas at Austin said that it can consider exceptions to the ban for "legitimate uses of TikTok to support university functions," including law enforcement, investigations, and academic research, but said that this would have to be approved by the president, UT System chancellor, and governor's office.

Even then, access would only be granted on devices connected to cellular services, not to the university's WiFi or wired network.

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Do you study or work at a US university that has banned the use of TikTok on campus WiFi? Email this reporter at gdean@insider.com.

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