POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Some people are calling to ban TikTok due to alleged cybersecurity risks, but students say it’s become a fabric of college life.
“I know a lot of kids nowadays kind of use it to express themselves. Sometimes it’s just an excuse to kind of goof off. But it’s definitely become more popular,” said Asia Ellis, a freshman at Polk State College.
“I use TikTok to normally look up recipes or I would say scroll for entertainment or motivational things or to laugh,” said Bendria Fugnole, a junior at Polk State College.
TikTok is accused of being vulnerable to cybersecurity risks due to its China-based parent company, ByteDance. This month, leadership at the University of Florida urged students not to use TikTok and remove it from their devices.
“Well, that’s not working because I have plenty of friends there that are utilizing it,” said Ellis.
Now, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is taking it a step further, calling on all colleges and universities to ban the use of TikTok on their wired and Wi-Fi networks.
In a tweet this week, he called TikTok a “tool of Chinese-Communist state,” said it threatens security and called it “digital fentanyl.”
“I’m concerned that it’s addictive nature in the wrong hands, especially in the wrong devices maybe in an office setting of a state government could lead to access to data,” said Patronis.
In a statement, TikTok denied that threat.
“There is no truth to Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’s claim. The Chinese Communist Party has neither direct nor indirect control of TikTok,” wrote TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown.
Brown went on to suggest politicians encourage the federal government to conclude its national security review of the app, which is addressing security concerns.
Even with a ban on college campuses, students could use their cell phone data plans to use the app.
“People would still find a way around it, to utilize it. They would honestly probably turn it into a trend and be like you can’t keep us from using an app,” said Ellis.
But Fugnole thinks a little less TikTok isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“People stay up and don’t get things done so you’re not really procrastinating but it’s just like a distraction and you don’t prioritize what’s important,” said Fugnole.
A spokesperson from Florida Polytechnic University, a Polk County-based state university, said leadership has not had the opportunity to discuss this issue yet.