By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A group on Thursday sued the state of Texas, claiming that research and teaching have been compromised by the state’s ban on public university employees using Chinese-owned short video app TikTok on state-owned devices or networks.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed suit in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas on behalf of the Coalition for Independent Technology Research. The group asserted that Texas’s state government TikTok ban “is preventing or seriously impeding faculty from pursuing research that relates to TikTok… It has also made it almost impossible for faculty to use TikTok in their classrooms.”
The Texas ban extends to public university faculty using personal devices to conduct state business.
“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.
The Texas State Attorney General’s Office did not immediately comment. TikTok declined to comment.
More than 30 states and the federal government have banned employees from using TikTok on government phones and systems, citing security concerns.
TikTok is used by more than 150 million Americans.
Montana has approved a first-of-its kind law banning any use of TikTok in the state starting on Jan. 1. TikTok is fighting the ban. A judge has scheduled an Oct. 12 hearing on TikTok’s request to block the law.
The Coalition for Independent Technology Research is a group of academics, journalists, civil society researchers, and community scientists and include professors at public universities in Texas who have been impacted by the ban.
The suit says the ban is unconstitutional as applied to faculty at public universities and faculty should be exempt until the state provides “them with a constitutionally adequate means of accessing TikTok for research and teaching purposes.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)