Floridians on their public school or state university or college internet network may no longer be able to access TikTok if a bill supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis passes in the Legislature.
On Wednesday, DeSantis announced a proposal to block state and local government devices from being able to access the popular social media platform, citing concerns about potential influence or interference from entities tied to the Chinese government. His announcement came as part of a broader news conference where the governor introduced the idea of a “digital bill of rights” to ensure consumer privacy.
DeSantis said the provision would not just affect TikTok, but other social media platforms linked to “countries of concern.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has prohibited the use of TikTok on state phones, and President Joe Biden has also banned TikTok use on federal devices, with a small carve-out for law enforcement agencies.
The University of Florida earlier this year advised students and employees to stop using the social media platform, citing concerns about how the app collects user data. In an email sent to the UF community, the university said it was looking at “the possibility that foreign governments may use TikTok to control data collection.”
In September, DeSantis signed an executive order to prohibit state government entities from procuring technology from companies “owned by, controlled by, or domiciled in foreign countries of concern,” according to a news release. On Wednesday, he said the proposed legislation would enshrine what the executive order aimed to do into law.
DeSantis said the measure will also require search engines to disclose why they prioritize certain search results and prohibit state employees from using state resources to “deplatform or censor any Floridian’s account.”
A 2021 bill, signed by DeSantis, targeted social media companies like Facebook and Twitter for removing users from the platforms and aimed to prevent them from banning political candidates. A three-judge panel at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional; the case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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