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Texas Law Banning TikTok on State Devices Upheld by Federal Judge

Federal Judge Upholds Texas TikTok Ban

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A federal judge upholds a Texas law bans TikTok on state-owned devices and networks, marking a significant legal decision in the ongoing debate over the app’s use and security concerns.

Judge Pitman’s Rejection of First Amendment Lawsuit

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U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman rejects a lawsuit by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, challenging the Texas law’s prohibition of TikTok on public university Wi-Fi as a violation of the First Amendment.

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Pitman on Academic Freedom and Free Speech

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Judge Pitman acknowledges the value of protecting academic freedom and public employees’ right to free speech but asserts that these do not determine the case’s framework: “While the Court recognizes the importance… these important ideals do not dictate the appropriate framework for this case.”

Ban as a Reasonable Restriction

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The judge rules that the TikTok ban is “not a restraint on public employee speech,” as faculty and employees can use the app on personal devices without accessing state networks, addressing concerns over freedom of expression.

Texas’s Concerns Over Data Privacy

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Judge Pitman deems the TikTok ban a “reasonable restriction” in light of Texas’s concerns regarding data privacy and TikTok’s connection to its Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance.

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TikTok’s Response to Security Accusations

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TikTok, pushing back against security and privacy concerns linked to its parent company, ByteDance, does not comment on the order upholding the Texas ban.

Knight Institute’s Disappointment

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Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, expresses disappointment over the decision, highlighting the law’s potential impact on academic freedom and research regarding TikTok at public universities in Texas.

Constitutionality of Restricting TikTok Research

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Jaffer argues that restricting research and teaching about TikTok is not a sensible or constitutionally permissible approach to addressing data-collection concerns: “Restricting research… is not a sensible or constitutionally permissible way of addressing legitimate concerns about TikTok’s data-collection practices.”

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Criticism of the Ban’s Efficacy

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Ramya Krishnan, a senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, criticizes the ban’s effectiveness in serving privacy, noting the availability of similar data from other platforms and data brokers: “The ban doesn’t actually serve privacy because other platforms are collecting the same data.”

Call for Justification of the Ban

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Krishnan expresses disappointment that the court did not require Texas to justify the ban, emphasizing the need for a more robust legal rationale: “The Court should have required Texas to justify the ban. It’s disappointing it didn’t.”

Widespread TikTok Bans in the U.S.

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The Texas law is part of a broader trend, with dozens of states and the U.S. federal government banning TikTok on government-owned devices due to security concerns.

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Montana’s Attempted Statewide TikTok Ban

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Montana’s more sweeping attempt to ban TikTok across the state, not just on government-owned devices, was blocked by a judge last month for infringing on the rights of users and businesses, contrasting with the Texas ruling.