KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Less than a week ago students and staff at the University of Tennessee lost the ability to access certain apps like TikTok on the campus Wi-Fi.

A new state law prohibits Tennessee higher education institutions from providing anyone internet access to any video platform owned by a company headquartered in China, including the popular social media platform TikTok.

State and federal lawmakers have expressed privacy and cybersecurity concerns over the app. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew recently testified in front of Congress.

“I know that it’s happening in a lot of places,” University of Tennessee, Knoxville student Perri Mahfouz said. “I think Florida has already done it. It happened last Friday, which is when we got the email.”

The email she’s referring to from the University to students and staff explains that they are one of many state institutions that have banned the use of popular china based social media platforms such as TikTok on their Wi-Fi networks.

The email stated the following:

This new law prohibits Tennessee public higher education institutions from allowing access to social media platforms operated or hosted by a company based in China on the institution’s network.

The new law means that students, faculty, staff and members of the general public will be blocked while using the University’s IT network if they attempt to access TikTok or other social media platforms (WeChat, Sina Weibo, Tencent QQ, Tencent Video, Xiao HongShu, Douban, Zhihu, Meituan and Toutiao) that are operated or hosted by a company in China.  The law does not prohibit students, faculty, staff, or members of the general public from accessing TikTok or other such Chinese social media platforms through an individual’s own personal network connection or a third-party network.

The law recognizes several key exceptions. It does not apply to institutions or employees of such institutions if downloading, accessing, or using such a social media platform is necessary to perform: (1) law enforcement activities; (2) investigatory functions to carry out official duties for bona fide law enforcement, investigative, or public safety purposes; or (3) audit, compliance, or legal functions of the institution.

University of Tennessee System

The ban does not affect those who are on campus and who choose to use their own personal networks.

“I think the overall consensus is like it’s not going to necessarily affect us that much because we’re just going to use it without the Wi-Fi,” said Chloe Lindberg.

While some say they are unfazed by the new law, others have strong opinions on the ban.

“The part that could affect national security. If it’s something where we could be spied on for lack of better words, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be cautious of that,” UT senior Chandler Ford said. However, I would be concerned that it could reach too far beyond TikTok and more of a governmental overreach.”

“To be honest, I just feel like maybe this isn’t the biggest issue we need to be pressing right now,” Chris Clark, another UT senior, said. “There’s so much more going on in the world right now with what just happened in Nashville last week or the week prior. So there is so much more than Tennessee needs to focus on. TikTok is not the incredible enemy that people think it is.”

Since the ban affects multiple China’s based platforms such as WeChat, An instant messaging app, some say it limits communication access for those who don’t have strong data plans.

“I could see this affecting people who like don’t have data or don’t have a good data plan where that’s the only way they can access it and I do think you can get a lot of information from TikTok, even like current events, or news, or things like that,” Lindberg added.

“I definitely sympathize with people who might be in different circumstances. However, I think with all the social media we have going on, there are certainly alternatives,” Ford added. “And if there’s one that could be at less risk or maybe even more benefit towards students, I think that they can quickly find that.”

There are a few exceptions to the ban.

The law allows employees or institutions to download, access, or block social media platforms to perform law enforcement activities and to investigate for public safety purposes.