Auburn Students Downplay Concerns Over TikTok Ban

The ban on TikTok from campus by several U.S. universities has brought the reality of the geopolitical fight over the app front and center for teenagers and young adults, The New York Times reported.

Recently, 19 governors have banned TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, from state-owned devices and networks over concerns that it poses a national security risk.

Auburn University sent an email to its 25,000 students last week, just before they returned from winter break, stating that TikTok was banned in the university’s effort “to protect valuable information and to reduce the possible cybersecurity threats associated with using TikTok.”

Two-thirds of teenagers in the U.S. use the app, and other universities have taken similar steps to Auburn’s.

“From what I’ve heard and talking with my friends, I think we all have the same opinion that it just seems silly and not very warranted,” said Elizabeth Hunt, a 20-year-old Auburn junior from Birmingham, Alabama, who lives on campus as a resident adviser. “While I do understand the concern around not knowing where your data is going, that’s not a TikTok-specific thing and all social media apps collect your data.”

She added, “I am a little annoyed that now anytime I want to get on the app, I’m going to have to use data and find ways around it.”

These reactions do not reflect the increasing concerns among both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, with a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress last month that would ban the app for everyone in the U.S. due to privacy and security risks.

TikTok spokesman Jamal Brown said the company was dismayed by the restrictions, stating, “We’re disappointed that 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.”

He added, “We’re especially sorry to see the unintended consequences of these rushed policies beginning to impact public universities’ ability to share information, recruit students, and build communities around athletic teams, student groups, campus publications, and more.”

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