More Texas universities block TikTok, remove app from devices

The University of Houston announced its own ban against the video sharing app on Thursday.

The University of Houston announced a ban against TikTok on Thursday as more Texas universities follow a December directive from Gov. Greg Abbott. 

The University of Houston announced a ban against TikTok on Thursday as more Texas universities follow a December directive from Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Houston Chronicle Staff

More universities across Texas are blocking access to the popular video-sharing app TikTok on campus Wi-Fi, joining a growing number of of schools censoring the Chinese-owned social medium. The University of Texas at Austin was the first in the state to implement such a ban, sending an email out to students on Tuesday announcing they are blocking access to the app on its Wi-Fi and wired networks to comply with a December directive from Gov. Greg Abbott banning the app from government-issued devices.

So far, other schools that have followed suit include the Texas A&M University System, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of North Texas in Denton. Texas Tech told the Texas Tribune it is waiting for additional state guidance. On Thursday, the University of Houston sent out a letter to students and staff announcing it has "immediately ceased activity on all of its University-managed TikTok accounts" following Abbott's order. 

"The UHS Information Security team has scanned more than 20,000 University-owned devices across the UH System, and the app was removed from six devices," the statement read. "The university has not made any changes to the university's Wi-Fi or Internet systems as it relates to the order."

A growing number of universities across the country have also banned the app on devices connected to campus networks, including Auburn University in Alabama, the University of Oklahoma and schools within the University System of Georgia. Some publications, including Rolling Stone, have noted that at many of these universities—namely UT Austin—students are allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus, including classrooms, under state law. 

Abbott issued the directive against TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., citing the "threat of the Chinese Communist Party gaining access to critical U.S. information and infrastructure" as his motivation. He also directed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Information Resources to develop a plan for state agencies to address any vulnerabilities presented by the use of TikTok on employee's devices by Jan. 15, 2023.

State agencies, including universities, were given until Feb. 15 to issue their own policies regarding the use of TikTok on personal devices. More than half of the states in the U.S. have banned the use of TikTok on government devices in some capacity in recent months, according to CNN.

Jamal Brown, a spokesperson for TikTok, told the Tribune he is disappointed "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. 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." 

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