April 12, 2024

The ban on TikTok on state devices and networks in Texas was challenged on Thursday by First Amendment lawyers who said the law violated the Constitution by restricting research and teaching at public universities.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of independent technology studies that includes university professors in Texas who say TikTok is inaccessible on campus Wi-Fi and on university-issued computers In the end, their work was compromised.

The lawsuit offers a glimpse into the real-world impact of the ban on TikTok, and the mounting legal headwinds that followed. Universities in more than 20 states have banned TikTok in some way under new rules from lawmakers who say TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, poses a national security threat, the institute said.

The Knight First Amendment Institute, which studies free speech cases pro bono, wants Texas and other states to exempt university teachers from the ban.

“The Supreme Court has characterized academic freedom as a particular concern of the First Amendment,” said Ramya Krishnan, an attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute. “TikTok has so many Americans that it’s important for researchers to be able to study the broader impact the platform has on public discourse and society.”

Representatives for Gov. Greg Abbott, who announced the Texas ban in December, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jacqueline Vickery, an associate professor at the University of North Texas and digital media scholar, was forced to “suspend research projects, alter research agendas, alter teaching methods and cancel course materials” as a result of the injunction, the lawsuit said.

Ms Vickery was previously able to collect and analyze numerous TikTok videos for her work, which focuses on how young people use digital and social media for informal learning and action, but she is no longer able to access the computers or personal Do this on your computer. Internet Networks, the lawsuit said. Because of her use of college email and other apps, the Texas ban also appears to extend to her personal cell phone, the lawsuit said.

Vickery said in an interview that she has not been able to access TikTok since returning from winter break at university, even for assignments, and she wants students to read the privacy policy on the TikTok website. She said the impact of the ban on her courses and research was “really challenging”, especially since she does not have a personal laptop.

“It’s not just an app that young people are using to have fun, there’s a lot of research going on as well as a lot of teaching through the site,” Ms Vickery said. “The ban doesn’t seem to really take into account the trickle-down effect.”

Ms Vickery is part of the Independent Technology Research Alliance, a coalition of academics, civil society researchers and journalists formed last year to promote “the right to study the impact of technology on society”.

The question of whether banning TikTok violates free speech rights has also been raised in two Montana lawsuits, both funded by the company. The state’s first state ban on TikTok will go into effect on Jan. 1. The company is not involved in the Texas lawsuit.

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