A Monday ruling from a Texas federal district court upheld the statewide ban of TikTok on all government agency devices. The plaintiff argued that the ban was disruptive to research and education across public universities.
A release from the Knight First Amendment Institute, an organization that advocates for freedom of speech and the press through litigation, research and education, which carried out the legal challenge, stated that the ban is disrupting research efforts and forcing public university faculty to suspend projects, limiting their engagement with research produced by other scholars. (The institute carried out the challenge on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, a group that aims to sustain the right to study the impact of technology on society.)
The professors involved argued that they have to change their teaching methodologies for courses because of the ban, which does not allow TikTok to be downloaded or used with government-issued devices or networks.
In the decision, District Judge Robert Pitman dismissed the plaintiff’s case because it “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” and maintained that the ban is a “reasonable, viewpoint-neutral restriction on a nonpublic forum,” making it constitutional, according to the ruling.
“Given TikTok’s popularity and influence on culture and politics worldwide, it’s important that researchers be able to study the platform, particularly ahead of one of the most significant election years in recent history,” Brandi Geurkink, a member of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research, said in the release. “This ban puts a blindfold on researchers that prevents them from studying the very risks that Texas says it wants to address.”
The coalition that challenged the ruling included “professors at public universities in Texas whose research and teaching have been compromised by the ban,” according to the release.
Pitman disagreed, writing that there were various solutions to this issue and pointed out that public university faculty could use personal devices and networks to access TikTok and resume their research.
Pitman stated in his ruling: “While the court agrees plaintiff that the ban prevents certain public university faculty from using state-provided devices and networks to research and teach about TikTok, the court finds that the ban is a reasonable restriction on access to TikTok in light of Texas’s concerns.”