TikTok should not be banned on college campuses

Mykel Hilliard, Multimedia Editor

Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott announced state agencies would have until Feb. 15 to implement new security plans to ban the popular social media app TikTok.

In an email sent to employees Feb. 13, Dallas College announced a ban of TikTok, through its website or application on college-issued devices such as cellphones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers and any other device capable of internet connection.

Before the announcement, Dallas College used TikTok to promote student enrollment, campus events and financial services. Since launching the account in 2021, the college has logged several viral videos and over 75,000 likes.

Since Abbott’s announcement, several higher education institutions across the state have barred access to TikTok on their campus networks. Thus far, the University of Texas at Austin, The Texas A&M University System, the University of North Texas in Denton and the University of Texas at Dallas have followed suit.

Banning TikTok from colleges is not a good idea as the app helps students access information and is a creative outlet for many students.

While I want to believe Abbott’s intentions in minimizing access to TikTok are to increase security measures, I can’t help but wonder whether it is an attempt by the GOP in Texas to suppress information and ideals they do not agree with.

In a statement, Abbott said the security risks with the app on state-issued devices should not be underestimated or ignored. He said TikTok is “owned by a Chinese company that employs Chinese Communist Party members, TikTok harvests significant amounts of data from a user’s device, including details about a user’s internet activity.”

According to KXAN-TV, an Austin-based NBC affiliate, in the 2021 Texas legislative session, critical race theory was banned from being taught in K-12 public schools.

Last month Texas Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, filed House Bill 1607. This bill would ask higher education institutions to not teach that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is not inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

This bill coming on the heels of the TikTok ban was a strategic move.

According to The Nation, voters who make up the Generation Z population have become an increasingly powerful political demographic for Democrats and progressives.

According to Forbes, Gen Z comprises over 60% of TikTok’s user base, which gives one the impression Abbott and his allies are attempting to minimize the app’s impact in elections.

While TikTok has had a positive effect in some aspects, it has also been under fire for the way it collects user information.

According to The Washington Post, likes and dislikes, political preferences, location and demographics of users on the app are all collected.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Glenn Gerstell, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said an outright ban of TikTok “would sidestep a broader problem — our nation’s overall failure to address concerns over the huge amount of personal data collected in our digital lives,” which could be used “by foreign adversaries.”

If Texas officials are worried about the data and information of users, they should put pressure on the U.S. federal government to address the issue instead of banning the app altogether.

Abbott and the GOP’s ban of TikTok on college campuses will set a bad precedent for other states, especially states such as Florida, which has been criticized for stifling information unfavorable to right wing values.

In a state which cherishes free speech, we should not be so eager to ban access to social media applications, especially applications where college students find community and access information.