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Why TikTok Bans are Sweeping the Nation

Last Updated: January 11, 2024
States are limiting access to the popular social media app on state-issued devices due to cybersecurity concerns.

State governments, public schools, and universities across the United States are banning TikTok, making the app indefinitely unavailable on select devices and servers across the nation.

With state bans also comes educational bans, as many public institutions are complying with state laws by limiting the widespread use of the ByteDance-owned short-form video application themselves.

These bans began sweeping the nation in early December.

But why are they happening, and how are they being implemented? Are state governments pressuring public universities to limit the app, too?

Here’s a brief breakdown of TikTok’s fate in the US.

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TikTok Bans Start at the Top

The federal government first raised cybersecurity concerns about TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, a couple of years ago. TikTok has over 1 billion active monthly users as of January 2023, and federal agencies worry about ByteDance’s potentially malicious intent behind tracking users on the app. In November, FBI Director Christopher Wray reaffirmed that suspicion at a Homeland Security Committee hearing.

“They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users,” he said at the time.

Maryland was the first to issue a statewide TikTok ban on Dec. 6, limiting access to TikTok, WeChat, and other Chinese and Russian-based platforms on state-issued devices and networks.

Former President Donald Trump was vocal about his stance on TikTok, launching various smear campaigns and threatening to ban the app because of national security concerns. That’s one thing current President Joe Biden can with his predecessor on, since Biden signed a bill in December that bans the social media app from use on US government-issued devices across Congress.

The U.S. armed forces have also banned TikTok on military devices.

“We’re disappointed that Congress has moved to ban TikTok on government devices — a political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests — rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review,” TikTok Spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter told TIME.

Will Congress implement a federal ban on TikTok, and if so, is that a First Amendment breach? We may soon find out, since there are bills in the works on the federal level that call for a nationwide ban of TikTok.

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TikTok Ban List

Here is a running list of all states and educational institutions that have banned TikTok on issued devices, including campus computers, mobile devices, and WiFi connections.

States

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

Pending bill approvals, California, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont may soon join the list.

Educational institutions

  • Auburn University
  • Arkansas State University
  • Boise State University
  • Idaho State University
  • Iowa State University
  • Morgan State University
  • Montana University System (includes 16 post-secondary educational institutions)
  • Northern State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • South Dakota University System (includes six universities)
  • Texas A&M University System (includes 11 universities)
  • Texas Tech University System (includes five universities)
  • University of Florida
  • University of Houston System (includes four universities)
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Northern Iowa
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • University System of Georgia (includes 26 public colleges and universities)
  • University of Wisconsin System (includes 13 universities)
  • West Texas A&M University

These bans are state and institution-wide. There are nearly 30 states overall that have issued some TikTok restrictions on state-issued devices.

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About The Author
Michelai Graham
Michelai Graham
Michelai Graham is Boardroom's resident tech and crypto reporter. Before joining 35V, she was a freelance reporter with bylines in AfroTech, HubSpot, The Plug, and Lifewire, to name a few. At Boardroom, Michelai covers Web3, NFTs, crypto, tech, and gaming. Off the clock, you can find her producing her crime podcast, The Point of No Return.