On Thursday, April 13th the Tennessee Government passed a law banning the use of Chinese-owned websites and apps on all public University internet networks. This decision came shortly after TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before Congress. It was, speculated that TikTok was the main target of the ban.
While many students have been able to find a loophole around the ban, by simply turning off their Wi-Fi, many Chinese students do not have that option. Most international students live away from their families. As far as turning off their Wi-Fi, they may not have access to unlimited data.
Chinese students’ main concern is not about not being able to use TikTok on their university’s internet. But they have also been cut off from their primary communication with their families that are living in China.
Unlike many cellphone plans in the United States, most Chinese plans do not come with unlimited text messaging. Students communicate with their families using WeChat. This app is a Chinese-owned instant messaging platform that can be used from all over the world.
Not only is WeChat a messaging app, but it is also the most popular social media app in China. The app is an essential source of information for Chinese students.
Due to the ban passed by the Tennessee Government, Chinese students no longer can no longer access WeChat or any other Chinese-based messaging apps. And if these students want to turn off their Wi-Fi to have access to these sites, they may have to pay money to stay connected with their loved ones.
Chelsea Chan is a student at The University of Tennessee Knoxville and a native of Hong Kong. She currently lives in a dorm hall on campus. Because of this, Chan spends most of her time on campus. Chan stated, “I have to switch to data all the time but it takes forever to load when not connected to Wi-Fi.” Another downfall to going off the Wi-Fi on a college campus. The service can be pretty poor, making it almost impossible for students to use any apps without an internet connection.
Meanwhile, the law may feel like a simple TikTok ban to many students. But for Chinese students, it is much more than that. It is a complete disconnect from their family, friends, and people outside the United States.
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