New College Joins Other Florida Universities in Banning TikTok on Campus

The move was announced on the same day that California Gov. Gavin Newsom visited with some of the school's staff and students.

By Isaac Eger April 5, 2023

Students at New College of Florida

Students at New College of Florida

As has become the norm, Wednesday was a busy day for New College of Florida. Not only did California Gov. Gavin Newsom stop in Sarasota to speak to New College students, faculty and members of the community, but the school also announced that it is banning the use of several social media platforms on campus, a list that includes the omnipresent app TikTok.

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A post shared by Gavin Newsom (@gavinnewsom)

New College's office of communications and marketing made the announcement via email, informing the public, staff and students that after Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida, “the governors approved an emergency regulation to accelerate implementation of proposed Regulation 3.0075, allowing the system’s Chancellor to block access to websites and social media platforms deemed to threaten personal privacy and national security.” The "emergency regulation" bans multiple foreign social media platforms, most notably the Chinese-owned TikTok, which will no longer be accessible on college-owned devices or through the campus’ network. Other banned apps include Tencent QQ, WeChat, Vkontakte, Kaspersky and Fizz.

It's not just New College. Other Florida colleges and universities have also instituted bans. Florida State University banned TikTok on Tuesday, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University did the same on March 17 and the University of Florida banned the app this afternoon.

The bans are happening in the wake of congressional hearings held last month in which U.S. representatives accused the Chinese social media company of maliciously harvesting American data and tried to figure out how WiFi works. There is also significant legislation making it’s way through Congress that is meant to address the alleged threat of TikTok.

The RESTRICT Act, a bipartisan bill often referred to as a “TikTok ban” bill, claims to be "a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans.” While proponents of the bill say the legislation is directed at large companies that create systemic risks to the national security of the United States, the actual language of the bill doesn’t necessarily line up.

Critics of the RESTRICT Act, like former Congressman Ron Paul, are calling the legislation a "Patriot Act on steroids" that targets individual Americans with penalties that include up to 20 years in prison and up to a $1 million in fines. A Salon article claims that the bill “could threaten civil liberties and First Amendment rights, especially considering its vague language, lack of oversight for sweeping new executive (not elected) authorities, and the secretive nature of the FISA courts, which rule on a range of intelligence and surveillance cases.”

Even Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized the bill. "This is not an effort to push back against China,” Carlson said on a recent episode of his show. “It’s part of a strategy to make America much more like China, with the government in charge of what you read and see and with terrifying punitive powers at their fingertips.”

The Florida Board of Governors' concerns over TikTok represent a rare instance in which the state's conservative leaders are in agreement with President Joe Biden, who wants to force TikTok’s parent company to sell the app or face a total ban in the U.S. Last year, Biden signed a law banning TikTok from all federal devices. 

Newsom, who made his surprise visit with New College staff and students at the Betty J. Johnson North Sarasota Public Library, has nearly 275,000 followers on TikTok. He has yet to voice any support for banning the app, and instead offered support to students and staff who are unhappy with the college’s transformation under Gov. Ron DeSantis. Newsom has not yet posted anything about his visit to Sarasota on his TikTok.

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