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Lawsuit Claims Red State Banning CCP-Linked TikTok Violates the Constitution

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol on June 08, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol on June 08, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

By: Katelynn Richardson, Daily Caller News Foundation

A group of academics filed a lawsuit against Texas Thursday for banning TikTok, whose parent company is tied to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on state-issued devices and networks, arguing the ban infringes on First Amendment rights.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a group of academics and professors, the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, who say the ban has infringed on academic freedoms by bringing planned research projects and classroom discussions on TikTok to a stop. The ban, which was ordered by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in December, is “preventing or seriously impeding faculty from pursuing research that relates to TikTok—including research that would illuminate or counter the data-collection and disinformation-related practices that the ban is ostensibly meant to address,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Texas’s TikTok ban is ‘an assault on academic freedom’, which is the lifeblood of every university and a central concern of the First Amendment,” said Ramya Krishnan, a senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, in a statement. “The court should make clear that Texas can’t shut down an important avenue of teaching and research at its public universities when there are far less intrusive measures that would secure its aims.”

The Knight First Amendment Institute’s executive director Jameel Jaffer was part of the Aspen Institute’s “Commission on Information Disorder,” which issued a report urging tech companies to more aggressively censor content. He also argued recently that a federal judge’s injunction restricting the government from communicating with social media companies for the purposes of censoring protected speech, issued in the First Amendment lawsuit Missouri v. Biden, was too broad.

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in February that the “security risks associated with the use of TikTok on devices used to conduct the important business of our state must not be underestimated or ignored.”

“Owned by a Chinese company that employs Chinese Communist Party members, TikTok harvests significant amounts of data from a user’s device, including details about a user’s internet activity,” he said.

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has hundreds of employees with close ties to CCP propaganda and has monitored the user data of American journalists who covered the company, according to Forbes. The U.S. Treasury Department also warned the company in March the U.S. would ban the app if it did not divest from the app.

More than two dozen states have also banned the app on government devices, according to The Washington Post. In May, Montana became the first state to ban the app entirely.

“Ironically, Texas’s misguided ban is impeding our members from studying the very risks that Texas says it wants to address,” Dave Karpf, Coalition for Independent Technology Research board member and associate professor in the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, said in a statement.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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