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Texas TikTok ban challenged for endangering ‘academic freedom’

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 a group called the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, whose members include a Texas college professor, after losing access to campus Wi-Fi and TikTok at the university. His work was compromised. Issued Computers.

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 Mr Abbott, who announced the ban in December, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit states that Jacqueline Vickery, an associate professor at the University of North Texas and a digital media scholar, was forced to “suspend research projects and change her research agenda, change her teaching methodology and eliminate course materials”. I went. Sanctions.

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 been able to use TikTok since returning from winter break at university, even for an assignment where she wanted her students to read the privacy terms on TikTok’s site. read to 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 through the site as well,” 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 Alliance, 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 of which have been 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.

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