Auburn University has blocked TikTok on campus WiFi following a directive by Alabama’s governor.
Journalism professors have been told to find workarounds so they can still teach multimedia skills.
One professor told Insider it would do students an “injustice” to remove TikTok from the curriculum.
Auburn University, Alabama, is among the dozens of US colleges that have restricted access to TikTok on campus – and some journalism professors warn it could have unexpected consequences on students’ education.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced a statewide ban on the app for all government agencies and networks in mid-December. “TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users,” Ivey said. “Use of TikTok involving state IT infrastructure thus creates an unacceptable vulnerability to Chinese infiltration operations.”
More than half of all US states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices, leading to a number of public colleges blocking TikTok from their WiFi and from university-owned devices.
“To protect valuable information and to reduce the possible cybersecurity threats associated with using TikTok, the Auburn network has been updated to restrict the use of TikTok,” the college said in an email to students on January 9.
It said students and staff wouldn’t be able to use the app while connected to the university’s wired and wireless services. The university directed Insider to the statement when approached for comment.
Auburn University’s official TikTok account hasn’t been deleted, though it hasn’t posted since December 7. Other university-affiliated accounts – including those for Auburn Football, Auburn Tigers, and Auburn Basketball – haven’t posted since December, though the college’s dining account has continued posting. Some colleges in Texas, in contrast, have told their staff to set all university-affiliated TikTok accounts to private and remove all institutional branding.
“TikTok has never shared US data with the Chinese government, nor would we if asked,” a TikTok spokesperson told Insider. They said that the company was “disappointed” so many states had enacted policies “that will do nothing to advance cybersecurity in their states and are based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok.”
Around 38% of TikTok users are aged between 18 and 24, according to data from Hypeauditor that was shared with Insider. Auburn students say the restrictions could affect their downtime, but professors worry it could have educational impacts, too.
It would do students an ‘injustice’ to remove TikTok from the curriculum
Gheni Platenburg, an assistant journalism professor at Auburn’s School of Communication and Journalism, told Insider she had “mixed feelings” about the restrictions.
Students in her multimedia journalism class have an assignment involving creating TikTok news videos. Finding out about the new policy so close to the start of the spring semester was “a bit troubling,” she said.
“Did I need to switch gears? Did I need to create a new assignment?” she asked herself at the time. At an internal faculty meeting at the start of the semester, “we were advised to pretty much proceed as we normally had, but just find workarounds where possible,” Platenburg said. She said that she planned to keep the TikTok assignment on her course and would show students example videos on her personal laptop using her phone as a hotspot.
“I think that it would do the students an injustice to just remove it from the curriculum altogether,” she said. “TikTok plays a big part in the storytelling experience these days.”
Brian Delaney, also an assistant professor of journalism at Auburn, said on Twitter that the restrictions were “exceedingly shortsighted.” He said that the app was “rife” with misinformation and that students needed to study the app to develop their media literacy.
“We need to be on the app, exploring its infrastructure, discussing its role in communication and journalism, identifying characteristics of misinformation & effective messaging,” he wrote on Twitter.
An email to staff at the School of Communication and Journalism, viewed by Insider, said that students would be able to upload TikTok links to Canvas – a virtual learning environment used by colleges – and staff would be able to view and grade them on their university. computers, but none of this could be done using campus WiFi. “You will have to grade off campus OR if you want to grade on campus, you can hotspot your computer to your phone,” the email said.
When contacted by Insider, Auburn University said it is “continuing to evaluate the security risks associated with TikTok.”
Christopher Mendoza, a journalism senior at Auburn, said that he worried the restrictions could affect his education. Two other journalism seniors, however, told Insider that they hadn’t used TikTok as part of their course.
Students are able to get around the restrictions by not connecting to the campus WiFi. But students told Insider that some buildings on campus don’t have cellular data, including some student accommodations, and expressed concerns that students who don’t have unlimited data could miss out.
Alex Husting, a journalism senior who is also director of sports at Auburn’s student radio station, told Insider that the restrictions had been creating headaches at the station, which had been planning on boosting its TikTok output.
But other students Insider spoke to weren’t overly concerned.
Noah Griffith, a journalism senior, said he used to create sports videos on TikTok but had deleted the app because it was too “addictive,” sometimes keeping him up late at night and distracting him from his college work.
Platenburg told Insider that she wasn’t too surprised when Auburn announced the restrictions because she had already heard about the governor’s directive. “I knew it would be only a matter of time before it trickled down here to the campuses,” she said.
“And while it’s bothersome to faculty, no one that I have encountered has seemed overly frustrated or angry about the issue,” Platenburg added. “It is seemingly a non-issue with no current cause for alarm.”
“This is just one social media platform,” she continued. “If students can’t use TikTok, then we’ve got Instagram, Facebook, and other ways to teach content creation. So you roll with the punches.”
Read the original article on Business Insider.