The University of Kansas will ban WeChat from KU-owned computers and the campus network starting Sept. 20, KU’s Information Technology department told students, faculty and staff in an email Tuesday morning.
The ban comes after President Donald Trump issued an executive order in August that prohibited the use of WeChat by anyone “under the jurisdiction of the United States.” The order was issued in response to growing concerns around the Chinese government's management of data gathered within the app.
“KU’s Office of Global Operations & Security, the Office of the General Counsel and KU Information Technology have determined that use of WeChat in KU’s business operations and on its networks will fall within the scope of the executive order’s ban,” Carl Taylor, director of Global Operations & Security, and Mary Walsh, chief information officer of KU IT, wrote in a co-signed email.
A similar executive order banned TikTok, but the effective date of that order was pushed back to Nov. 12. KU will wait before issuing further guidance regarding the use of TikTok, according to the statement.
Many international students use WeChat as a way to keep in contact with people outside the U.S. KU previously used the app as a way to communicate with international students before they arrived in the U.S.
“We understand that many of our international students, faculty and staff rely on WeChat to communicate with family and friends in their home countries and around the world,” Taylor and Walsh wrote. “We stand by to make adjustments to our compliance plan based on issuance of further federal guidance or other legal developments.”
Native to Suzhou, China, Chuling Chen, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said that WeChat is a part of her daily life and is the only way she communicates with her friends and family back home.
“I use WeChat every single day because it’s pretty much the only way I can contact my family from China, my family friends from China,” Chen said. “So if they ban it, we have to find a different way to contact each other and we are not ready for that at all.”
An alternative app Chen and her friends have thought of is Line, which is another messaging program that can be used via WiFi, but there hasn’t been a significant switch to that platform just yet.
“People who live in China are able to call each other easily, but for us who live in a different country, it’s hard for us to call them directly because the time difference,” Chen said. “Pretty much WeChat is really the only app we use to contact each other.”