Georgia public colleges ban TikTok on school-owned devices

FILE - The TikTok logo is seen on a cell phone on Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File) (Michael Dwyer, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ATLANTA – The University System of Georgia is following Gov. Brian Kemp’s lead and banning the use of TikTok, WeChat and Telegram on computers and phones owned by the system or any of its 26 universities and colleges.

Spokesperson Kristina Torres confirmed the move Tuesday, after the Republican Kemp on Thursday became one of numerous governors to ban TikTok from state computers. Because of Georgia law, Kemp generally can’t give direct orders to public universities.

Chancellor Sonny Perdue said in a memo that state-owned devices can only be used to access the programs for law enforcement and security purposes.

Perdue said the students, faculty and staff could still access the sites on their own computers and phones, or those owned by university-related foundations, as long as employees don’t also use those devices to access personal information or sensitive information related to university business.

Many Georgia universities use TikTok to court potential new students and communicate with current students and athletic fans. At least 20 public Georgia universities and four-year colleges appear to have TikTok accounts, although some have never posted. Valdosta State University, for example, appears to have eight separate accounts.

Some public universities in other states are barring students from using school Wi-Fi networks to access TikTok on their own devices. Torres didn’t immediately respond to a question about whether that would happen in Georgia.

Congress is moving to ban TikTok from most U.S. government devices under a spending bill unveiled Tuesday, with requirements for the Biden administration to prohibit most uses of TikTok or any other app created by its owner, ByteDance Ltd.

A spokesperson for TikTok called the bans a “political gesture” that is not needed to protect national security because TikTok is developing security and data privacy plans to secure the platform in the U.S.

Kemp and others say foreign governments may be able to access users’ personal information or use the programs for spying operations.