‘Digital fentanyl’: CFO Jimmy Patronis calls for TikTok ban at Florida universities

Jimmy Patronis on the set of This Week In Jacksonville. (News4JAX.com)

The battle against TikTok continues as federal lawmakers introduce legislation that would ban the social media app in the United States.

Florida leaders are involved, including Gov. Ron DeSantis. On Tuesday, I spoke with Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, about the risks he sees with the social media app — and why he wants colleges to jump on board and ban the app.

The social media craze has been a national security controversy for some time.

“I don’t see any need of taking the risk of allowing a foreign government to have electronic espionage in our state government,” Patronis told me.

In 2020, he banned the app on any state devices. He’s against TikTok for at least a couple of reasons.

“I’ll look at it with our kids. I’ve seen my niece on TikTok. She will let her phone go dead and then she’ll plug it up and continue using it. That’s why I call it ‘digital fentanyl.’ It is highly addictive, and I think it’s just a destructive distraction,” Patronis said.

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

Patronis is backing DeSantis in his push against the app.

Now, lawmakers in Washington are calling for a federal ban.

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley says in a tweet that TikTok “threatens Americans’ privacy and harms children’s mental health.” A tweet by Hawley also calls the app, “China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives.”

It’s something Patronis seems to agree with. He wants Florida universities to ban use of the app.

“Say if you’re at the University of Florida, and it’s got its open Wi-Fi network, you won’t be able to access TikTok from that Wi-Fi network,” Patronis said. “You’re plugged into their ethernet, you won’t be able to access it.”

Congress passed and implemented the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” last year, which prohibits the use of TikTok on all federal government devices.

Click below to watch my full interview with CFO Jimmy Patronis. For bonus This Week in Jacksonville coverage, make sure you download the News4JAX+ App, available on Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, Android TV and Chromecast.

And if you haven’t, subscribe to my weekly This Week in Jacksonville newsletter -- an exclusive for News4JAX Insiders.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.