Members of the University of Florida (UF) Board of Governors (BOG) have expressed support for banning TikTok on UF campuses.
The short-form video app is wildly popular with American youth; according to US-based marketing agency Wallaroo Media, it has 80 million monthly active users, with 60% being between the ages of 16-24.
The proposed ban results from cybersecurity concerns: TikTok is currently owned by Chinese firm ByteDance and some worry that the app may be wielded by the Chinese government to steal American research and user data. Several US universities have already banned the app, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. Moreover, more than 30 states – including Florida – have banned the app on state government devices. TikTok is also banned on federal government devices, with President Joe Biden signing the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” last year.
We are the most innovative country on the planet, and we are allowing this app to go unchecked
– Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer
TikTok’s US-based executives have rebuffed concerns that the app is being influenced by the Chinese government. The company recently released a statement noting that: “The Chinese Communist Party has neither direct nor indirect control of ByteDance or TikTok.”
“ByteDance is a private, global company, nearly 60 percent of which is owned by global institutional investors, with the rest owned primarily by the company’s founders and its employees—including thousands of Americans.”
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis branded the app “digital fentanyl”. “It’s very concerning to have TikTok on university campuses,” he suggested. “We are the most innovative country on the planet, and we are allowing this app to go unchecked.”
Similar worries were echoed by Alan Levine, Chief Executive Officer of Ballad Health and Chair of the University of Florida BOG’s Strategic Planning Committee. Levine wants university leaders to create a statewide ban, which can be presented by the BOG’s next regular meeting, set to take place in March.