Florida OKs emergency move allowing TikTok ban at all universities

The action could take place “as soon as practicable” at state schools.
A new emergency policy by the Florida Board of Governors clears the way for the state to ban TikTok on all public university campuses.
A new emergency policy by the Florida Board of Governors clears the way for the state to ban TikTok on all public university campuses. [ DAMIAN DOVARGANES | AP ]
Published March 28, 2023

A state education panel approved an emergency regulation Tuesday that paves the way for Florida to ban the TikTok app on public university campuses across the state.

The move by a committee of the Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, follows growing calls for a national ban of the app over security concerns.

It gives system chancellor Ray Rodrigues the ability to implement a statewide ban “at his discretion” and “as soon as practicable.”

Board of Governors member Alan Levine has been pushing for the action since January, when he raised concerns that TikTok was a threat to universities’ intellectual property. He recommended the state follow the lead of the University of Florida, which strongly recommended in January that all students stop using TikTok and hinted a ban could come soon.

Levine said it’s important that Florida adopt a uniform policy.

U.S. officials have raised concerns over the security of user data held by the Chinese-owned app, saying there’s a risk the information could be turned over to the Chinese government.

In February, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supported banning TikTok from government devices. And in a March interview with broadcaster Piers Morgan, said he would ban the app altogether if he had the authority.

Since then, Levine said, the Board of Governors has worked with the state’s 12 universities to adopt a “state-approved cyber threat prohibited technologies list“ with cooperation from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.

The universities would have to prevent the software’s network traffic over their network, remove it, and prevent it from being installed on university-owned devices. They would also move to prevent the installation of any identified hardware within the university’s infrastructure.

The emergency action approved Tuesday is officially a temporary move until the Board of Governors passes a permanent regulation, a process that requires a two-week period for the public to comment. Still, it allows the university system to take action immediately.

“On campus, this goes a little bit beyond TikTok in that it identifies any foreign actors who own the access to data and who are also identified as a national security risk,” Levine said. “So it gives (universities), the flexibility to adapt to whatever other dangers come down the pike. But I’ve seen enough and heard enough to know that this is an immediate threat to our faculty in their research.”

Exceptions to the policy would include law enforcement and could be granted by the university’s chief information officer in certain instances.

“Research is a multibillion dollar industry in our state and we, our taxpayers, have subsidized a lot of that,” Levine said. “And in order to protect them, I think we should move immediately.”