A ban on TikTok on state equipment and networks in Texas was challenged Thursday by First Amendment lawyers, who said the law violated the constitution by limiting research and teaching at public universities.
Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, whose members include a Texas college professor, after losing access to TikTok on campus Wi-Fi and university-issued computers it says His work was compromised.
The lawsuit offers a glimpse into the growing legal backlash against efforts and real-world effects of sanctions targeting TikTok. Universities in more than 20 states have banned TikTok to some degree, based on new rules from lawmakers who say TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, poses a national security threat. Is.
Knight’s First Amendment Institute, which works on free speech matters, wants Texas and other states to exempt university faculty from the restrictions.
Knight First Amendment Institute attorney Ramya Krishnan said, “The Supreme Court has characterized academic freedom as a special concern of the First Amendment.” “With so many Americans on TikTok, it is important that researchers are able to study the impact this platform is having on public discussion and society more generally.”
Representatives for Governor Greg Abbott, who announced the Texas ban in December, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit states that Jacqueline Vickery, associate professor and digital media scholar at the University of North Texas, was forced to “suspend research projects and change her research agenda, change her teaching methodology and eliminate course materials” because of the ban. it was done.
Ms Vicky was previously able to collect and analyze a large number of TikTok videos for her work, which focuses on how young people use digital and social media for informal education and activism, but she is now You may not do so on your University owned computer or Internet network as suits. The Texas ban also appears to extend to her personal cellphone, based on her use of university email and other apps, the lawsuit said.
Ms Vickery said in an interview that she had not had access to TikTok since returning from winter break at university, even for an assignment in which she wanted her students to read the privacy terms on TikTok’s site. Read. The impact of the ban on his classes and research has been “really challenging”, he said, especially because he does not have a personal laptop.
“It’s not just an app that young people use for entertainment, but there’s a lot of research going on with and through the site as well as a lot of education,” Ms Vickery said. “It doesn’t seem like the ban really took into consideration the ill effects that could come.”
Ms Vickery is part of the Independent Technology Research Coalition, a group 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 rights to free speech has also been raised in two lawsuits in Montana, both funded by the company. The first-of-its-kind ban on TikTok in the state comes into effect from January 1. The company is not involved in the Texas lawsuit.