A coalition representing Texas public university professors is suing Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials over a statewide ban on TikTok on government-issued devices starting next year. The ban, they say in the lawsuit, will prevent faculty members from using the platform to teach and conduct research in an academic capacity.
He lawsuit was filed Thursday by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, a free speech advocacy group, on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, an organization that advocates for research on the impact of technology in society.
“Banning faculty at public universities from studying and teaching with TikTok is not a sensible or constitutional response to concerns about data collection and misinformation,” Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, said in a statement. release. Press release.
Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In December, Abbott banned TikTok on devices owned by the state or issued to employees of state agencies, including state university systems. At least 20 states have banned TikTok on devices issued by a state agency, and several public universities have banned it on school-owned devices. according to the Associated Press.
TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, was also banned on federally issued or owned devices in December 2022, with a few exceptions, amid growing security concerns over claims of Chinese government surveillance through the app. .
The app has been under scrutiny from lawmakers at the federal and state levels. In May, Montana became the first state to ban TikTok from operating in the state. The legislation, effective January 1, 2024, would also prohibit app stores from offering TikTok in Montana.
The Texas college’s lawsuit joins a host of other legal challenges to the TikTok bans.
“The security risks associated with the use of TikTok on devices used to conduct our state’s important business should not be underestimated or ignored,” Abbott said in February when announcing the ban.
The coalition representing Texas college said the TikTok ban was unconstitutional under the First Amendment, citing academic freedom. “The TikTok ban in Texas is an assault on academic freedom, which is the lifeblood of all universities and a central First Amendment concern,” said Ramya Krishnan, senior attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute.
In its lawsuit, the coalition asked Texas officials to exempt professors at public universities from the ban and provide them with ways to access TikTok for research and teaching.
The state ban has hampered the college’s investigation, according to the lawsuit, citing the case of Jacqueline Vickery, an associate professor in the Department of Media Arts at the University of North Texas, who was forced to «suspend research projects and change their research agenda, alter their teaching methodology, and remove course materials.
Some experts argue that allowing academics to study TikTok could actually help illuminate the risks associated with the app, which the state wants to address.
«Like it or not, TikTok is an immensely popular communications platform, and its policies and practices are influencing culture and politics around the world,» said Dave Karpf, board member of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research. and associate professor at the George Washington University School. of Media and Public Affairs
TikTok has more than 150 million monthly active users in the US, according to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s testimony before Congress in March.