TikTok likely hasn’t been too bothered about a bunch of crusty old senators and governors denouncing their social media platform. But Cockburn thinks the Chinese-owned company may be a little concerned by the latest wave of resistance as it directly affects their core demographic: young Americans.
One of the South’s largest universities, Auburn, has banned TikTok from campus WiFi. The move was ordered by Alabama governor Kay Ivey, one of many Republican governors to bar the use of TikTok on state devices in December.
“China doesn’t care if they are building a dossier on a nine-year-old or a ninety-year-old,” Ivey said. “They will build it on all of us and really that’s a part of their five-year plan and really part of how China conducts their global affairs.”
The move is the next counter-assault in the US war on TikTok. Two-thirds of American teenagers use the app, making it second in popularity only to YouTube. The New York Times reported that colleges in Idaho and Oklahoma, including Boise State University and the University of Oklahoma, also banned the app from their campus Wi-Fi networks. Idaho State University went so far as to deactivate its own TikTok account. There could be more to follow: Montana governor Greg Gianforte asked the Montana University System to stop allowing TikTok on its networks in a January 3 letter, citing security risks.
The recent campus restrictions come after nineteen governors had banned the video app from state-owned devices and networks in the past six weeks. Meanwhile, negotiations are dragging on between TikTok and the Biden administration, which is concerned that the popular app poses a national security risk by possibly giving the Chinese government an ability to surveil users.
Unsurprisingly, TikTok wasn’t exactly thrilled with the news. “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,” said Jamal Brown, a spokesman for TikTok.
“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.”
In other words, “you’ll be nothing without me.” Cockburn is sure that these colleges will be just fine without their students using the Chinese spyware.