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Judge upholds Texas law banning TikTok on state devices

December 12, 2023

A federal judge upheld a Texas law that bans the use of TikTok on state-owned devices and networks in a Monday order.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman rejected a lawsuit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institue at Columbia University, which argued the Texas law violated the First Amendment by prohibiting the use of TikTok on public university Wi-Fi.  

“While the Court recognizes the importance both of protecting academic freedom and supporting public employees’ right to free speech, the Court finds that these important ideals do not dictate the appropriate framework for this case,” Pitman wrote.

Pitman said the ban is “not a restraint on public employee speech,” as university faculty and all public employees are free to use TikTok on their personal devices, as long as they are not used to access state networks.  

The judge also said the ban is a “reasonable restriction on access to TikTok in light of Texas’s concerns,” which centered on data privacy and TikTok’s Chinese-based parent company ByteDance.  

TikTok has pushed back on accusations that its Chinese-parent company poses additional security or privacy threats. A TikTok spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the order upholding the Texas ban.  

Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, called the decision “disappointing.” The Knight Institute had argued the law would not only limit academic freedom, but also in effect limit researchers at public universities in Texas from conducting research about TikTok.  

“Restricting research and teaching about one of the world’s major communications platforms is not a sensible or constitutionally permissible way of addressing legitimate concerns about TikTok’s data-collection practices,” Jaffer said in a statement.  

Ramya Krishnan, a senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, said the ban “doesn’t actually serve privacy because other platforms are collecting the same data, and because the same kind of data collected by TikTok can easily be purchased from data brokers.”  

“The Court should have required Texas to justify the ban. It’s disappointing it didn’t.” 

Dozens of states, as well as the U.S. federal government, have banned the use of TikTok on government-owned devices.  

Montana attempted a more sweeping ban on TikTok across the state, not just on government-owned devices, but a judge blocked it from going into effect late last month, ruling that it infringed on the rights of users and business.  



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