Florida’s public universities have joined a growing list of institutions that have banned TikTok and other apps linked to foreign governments from their campuses, citing potential security risks and data privacy issues.
The ban, which affects more than a dozen universities with hundreds of thousands of students, follows an emergency regulation adopted by the State University System Board of Governors on March 29. The regulation prohibits the use of TikTok, WeChat, Tencent QQ, VKontakte and Kaspersky on university-owned devices and blocks access to these platforms using university networks.
“These applications are identified to bring unnecessary risk due to their connection with the foreign governments and are known to collect user’s biometric data such as faceprints and voiceprints from the user’s content,” said an email from Florida State University to its community.
TikTok, a popular short-form video-sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has faced scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and officials over its ties to Beijing and its access to user data. The app has denied sharing any information with the Chinese government and has said it operates independently from ByteDance.
Some Florida university officials and students have expressed skepticism about the ban, questioning its effectiveness and impact on academic freedom and creativity. Some students said they plan to keep using TikTok on their personal devices or by turning off their Wi-Fi.
“Shout out to all of those that think TikTok is anything other than a tool of the Chinese government,” said University of Florida President Ben Sasse at an event in Daytona Beach in February, adding that he supported bills that restrict what apps can do.
Florida is not the only state that has taken action against TikTok. In January, New York City’s Department of Education advised schools to stop using the app for remote learning. In September, the U.S. Commerce Department issued an order to ban TikTok from U.S. app stores, but the move was blocked by a federal judge.
The Guardian, a UK-based media company, recently explored how to use artificial intelligence to extract quotes from news articles for different storytelling formats, such as podcasts or graphics. The company used Prodigy, a tool for creating training and evaluation data for machine learning models, to customize its quote extraction process.