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College and University TikTok bans are not stopping students

Universities around the country have placed bans on TikTok, but college kids are easily able to bypass them. In fact, some are even popular creators. So, what’s the point?

by Karl Bode from Tech Dirt

We’ve noted a few times how the political push to ban TikTok is a dumb performance largely designed to distract people from our failure to pass even a basic internet privacy law or regulate data brokers. We’ve also noted how college bans of TikTok are a dumb extension of that dumb performance, and don’t accomplish anything of meaningful significance.

When the college bans first emerged, we noted they’d be trivial to bypass, given the bans only apply to the actual college network. They obviously don’t apply to personal student use over cellular networks. And, not surprisingly, students are finding it extremely easy to bypass the bans, either by simply turning off Wi-Fi when they want to access the social network, or using a VPN:

“The student body, quietly, in unison, added Wi-Fi toggling to their daily routine. “Everyone was so nonchalant about it,” Pablo says. “They really just did not care.”

“There wasn’t a whole lot of pushback, aside from a lot of grumbling and groans,” says Ana Renfroe, a sophomore at Texas A&M. Some of her professors are still showing TikToks in class. They’ll just ask students to download the videos at home she explains, or will upload them to another platform like Instagram Reels.”

The folks who spent several years hyperventilating about how TikTok was some unique threat to the public (on an internet where countless international companies, ISPs, app makers, and data brokers over-collect and fail to secure consumer data) are, of course, nowhere to be found.

Their superficial “solution” for a problem they overstated (often for xenophobic or anticompetitivereasons) didn’t actually do anything useful, but it provided the superficial illusion of solution-oriented thinking, which is good enough for the kind of facts-optional partisan media echo chambers the most vocal TikTok critics often inhabit. 

Here in reality, folks like The Knight First Amendment Institute have continued to challenge the college bans, noting they imperil research into an important modern information-exchange platform. But we still haven’t passed a privacy law or regulated data brokers as part of any sort of coherent plan to rein in allbad actors on privacy, not just the Chinese-owned ones Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want eating his lunch.

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