Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Ole Miss Students, Staff React to TikTok Restrictions

By Paris Payne

IMC Graduate Student

Now that the University of Mississippi says no one can use campus Wi-Fi for TikTok, students seem to be, well, entirely unaffected.

Biology and chemistry major, Michael Davis, says that there are other ways to access TikTok.

“You’ll just have to use your data or strictly use it off campus, there are easy ways around it,” Davis said.

“I’m just going to use my data. I like watching my silly little videos,” Jeranesha Dockins, an interdisciplinary studies and social work major, said.

Last month Governor Tate Reeves issued a directive banning TikTok from all Mississippi-issued government devices and the state’s network. This came after the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, raised national security concerns back in December saying that the Chinese-owned app gives that country the ability to “manipulate content” and “to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations.”

With this in mind, The University of Mississippi released its own statement on Jan. 27 stating that UM employees may not access TikTok on state-issued digital devices. UM employees were given until Jan. 31 to “remove, delete and uninstall such applications from state-issued devices.”

At least one student thinks the move is pointless.

“There are so many other websites and apps and things that are made by China that you can still get on, so China really already has all the access they need,” integrated marketing communications major Kayli Hankins said.

In addition to removing the app from those devices UM also announced that as of Jan. 31, TikTok will no longer be accessible on the university’s network.

That’s going to have some impact on campus departments that rely heavily on the use of TikTok for recruiting purposes. Alex Sims, associate director of digital strategy for Ole Miss Athletics, says the effects are minimal for now, but he hopes the restrictions won’t go much further.

“If we were to have to cut TikTok altogether, it would be a difficult tool to replace,” said Sims. “Our target audience that exists on TikTok is likely also on other social media platforms, like Instagram, but overall, it would remove a recruiting tool from our arsenal.”

But Sims says he also understands why the university made the decision it did.

“As long as it has been around, there have been rumors and reports about the lack of safety for users’ data,” Sims said. “With that in mind, of course it makes sense that IT departments on campuses and at other businesses would want to ban TikTok—and if it is truly a threat, then it’s their job to prevent it from hurting the campus technology grid and its users.”

Integrated marketing communications major Kelly Corley also believes that the university is justified in its decision.

“I feel like some of the concerns that the university has are legitimate [when it comes to] safety,” Corley said.

Others simply shrugged.

“Really, they can’t stop that many people from using Tiktok,” said psychology major JT Kellum.

Auburn TikTok Talk

As of January 16, 32 states have taken action to restrict TikTok on state-issued devices, with nine of those states also banning additional apps. Universities in the Southeastern Conference, including Auburn University, are dealing with the same issues as the University of Mississippi.

Students at Auburn have similar views on the restrictions.

Adam Clemenzi, Auburn sophomore, general business major

The purpose of the ban is said to be to safeguard students and university devices from data mining and spying from the Chinese government (CCP). What do you think about the potential for Chinese spying?

I do strongly believe that the CCP is using the app to gather information on its users and [is] potentially using that data to inflict harm on Americans or anyone in the western world. Fortunately, Apple allows you to deny certain applications access to data such as location, sync data with other devices, etc.

Mincey Jones, Auburn sophomore, psychology and social work major

What was your initial reaction to the TikTok restrictions? Were you annoyed, or unbothered?

My initial reaction was that it was a little extreme, but I understand what has driven the government to ban the app; data is freely given out, which makes identity theft easier. I would say I wasn’t bothered, especially since I know how to get around it.

I wish there was more information more easily available and [that was more] understandable about Chinese spying from the government. I think most of my generation is very uninformed, including myself.

Isabelle Wiggs, Auburn sophomore, kinesiology major

What was your initial reaction to the ban? Were you annoyed, or unbothered?

My initial reaction was that I was very annoyed. I’m an out-of-state student who is paying to live on-campus, so not being able to use an app in my personal time on my own phone is obnoxious.

I understand why they’re doing this, but I think it’s more important to educate people on why they’re doing it and give tips on how to prevent Chinese hacking, rather than telling us it’s banned and not giving specifics as to why.

School of Journalism & New Media graduate students Jaylin R. Smith, Delilah Nakaidinae, Jared Redding and Hayden Wiggs contributed to this story.