TikTok is prohibited on government networks and devices in the United States, Canada, and the European Union. But do the moves have any impact?
Liz Barr was stymied earlier this year when TikTok refused to load on her university’s wifi network – but not for long.
She quickly figured out how to get around the block by using personal mobile data or a virtual private network (VPN). The block was implemented after Maryland officials banned the video app from government networks, citing national security concerns.
“I was irritated because I live here and I get bored,” says the 18-year-old computer science and creative writing student at St Mary’s College of Maryland. “But it works now, so it’s not such a big deal.”
The workaround exemplifies the dilemma that the United States and other countries are facing as they threaten to crack down on TikTok, which has exploded in global popularity in recent years, offering an endless feed of user-generated makeup tutorials, life hacks, silly dances, and other confessionals curated by algorithm.
Rumblings against the social media platform, which is owned by the Chinese tech behemoth ByteDance and has over one billion users worldwide, have reached new heights in recent months.
Concerns have been particularly vocal in the United States, where politicians from across the ideological spectrum have called for steps to limit TikTok’s reach, arguing that the data TikTok collects could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans or influence political debates.
Dozens of states, including Maryland, have banned TikTok from government networks and devices, affecting access to public libraries, universities, and other institutions.