TikTok banned from all USM networks, devices


Lawyers for The University of Southern Mississippi announced today that the app and website TikTok will be blocked on university Wi-Fi and wired networks, along with a ban on the use of the app on state-owned computers and cell phones, effective on January 30, 2023. 

The mandate does not apply to personal devices and commercial networks, so faculty, staff and students will still be able to access TikTok on campus using their cellular network. However, filters will be in place on USM Wi-Fi networks, such as eduroam and USM Public, to block the app and others made the same company, according to Allen Baxter, iTech Information Security Officer. 

This ban comes from a directive issued by Gov. Tate Reeves on January 11 to all Mississippi departments and agencies banning TikTok from all state-issued government devices and the state’s networks. Meaning all Southern Miss students and employees with state-issued phones, computers, and other wireless communication equipment must delete any apps or other software applications developed by ByteDance Ltd., developer of TikTok, by the end of the month. 

The ban stems from cybersecurity issues and fears over Chinese spying. 

“It’s no secret that the Chinese Communist Party is actively trying to steal U.S. intellectual property and Americans’ personal information. It’s a major threat to our national security and critical infrastructure, costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions annually, and jeopardizes American jobs,” Reeves said in his January 11 press release. “Mississippi isn’t going to sit around waiting for the Chinese Communist Party to steal our state government data, and that’s why I issued this directive. It will help us better protect our state’s sensitive information and critical infrastructure.” 

While this may be a good thing from a security standpoint, many students question why the university is banning an app everyone uses for entertainment. 

“I think it’s crazy because TikTok hasn’t done anything wrong to nobody,” USM student Janninah Miller, said. 

Others, especially those in organizations that use the app, are questioning how they will get their information out to current and future students. TikTok has become more popular among students both at the college and high school levels.  

“There are so many different social media networks, and TikTok was just one that was really accessible. You get your information out so fast, and it can reach thousands, even millions, of people in seconds,” Amanda Lawrence, Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement Marketing Graduate Assistant, said. “So, I understand how that could be dangerous. But, still, for what our office is for and what we do, it is so beneficial.” 

Dozens of campus organizations use TikTok to reach audiences that are not on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Therefore, banning a utilized app may lower views and interactions between students and campus organizations.  

However, others do not think it will decrease social media interactions for organizations but will lead to a shift from one platform (TikTok) to another (Instagram). 

“ I think while we’ll see a decrease in TikTok activity and maybe like following on that, I do believe we’ll potentially see a huge increase in Reels or maybe like a kind of transition from that platform over to more of a presence on Instagram,” Hannah Back, College Panhellenic Council Advisor, said. 

There are concerns for international students who might not have cell service or another device to watch TikTok. Since it is a way for them to see content from their country without paying a fee since USM provides Wi-Fi services to all students and employees on campus. 

Southern Miss is not the only public university that is instituting TikTok bans. At least 20 public universities made decisions to ban TikTok from their servers or recommend their students remove the app from their personal devices, according to NBC News.