A coalition representing faculty at Texas public universities is suing Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials over the state’s ban on TikTok on government-issued devices, effective next year, NBC News reported. The ban, they say in the lawsuit, will prevent faculty members from using the platform to teach and conduct research in an academic capacity.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday, by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, a free speech advocacy group, on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, a organization that advocates for research on technology’s impact on society.
“Banning public university faculty from studying and teaching with TikTok is not a sensible or constitutional response to concerns about data-collection and disinformation,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, in a press release.
NBC News also reported that that TikTok was banned from federal government-owned or issued devices in December 2022, with some exceptions, in the wake of growing security concerns over claims of Chinese government surveillance through the app.
According to NBC News, the app has been under scrutiny from lawmakers on a federal level. In May, Montana became the first state to ban TikTok from operating in the state.
Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University posted a press release that includes the following:
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed suit today on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research asserting that Texas’s TikTok ban, initially imposed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott last year, violates the First Amendment. The ban requires all state agencies, including public universities, to bar employees from downloading or using TikTok on state-owned or -issued devices or networks, as well as on personal devices used to conduct state business. The lawsuit challenges the ban’s application to public university faculty, asserting that it comprises academic freedom and impedes vital research.
“Banning public university faculty from studying and teaching with TikTok is not a sensible or constitutional response to concerns about data-collection and disinformation,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute. “Texas mush pursue its objectives with tools that don’t impose such a heavy burden on First Amendment rights. Privacy legislation would be a good place to start.”
Engadget reported that the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit in the name of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, an academic research advocacy group the Texas professors are members of. The lawsuit names Governor Greg Abbott and 14 other state and public education officials as defendants. “The government’s authority to control their research and teaching… cannot survive First Amendment scrutiny,” the complaint says.
According to Engadget, one example cited by the plaintiffs is Jacqueline Vickery, Associate Professor in the Department of Media Arts at the University of North Texas, who studies and teaches how young people use social media for expression and political organizing. “The ban has forced her to suspend research projects and change her research agenda, alter her teaching methodology, and eliminate course materials,” the complaint reads. “It has also undermined her ability to respond to student questions and to review the work of other researchers, including as part of the peer-review process.”
Personally, I wonder how many states are going to ban TikTok from the phones of their Senators and Congresspeople. To me, I think that the educators who are using TikTok for research should not be prevented from continuing their study.