TEXAS — A judge on Monday ruled in favor of Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott, upholding the state’s ban on the use of TikTok on official devices.
The lawsuit was filed in July by The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. It argued that the ban – which extends to public universities – is unconstitutional and impedes academic freedom.
The suit was filed on behalf of a coalition of academics and researchers who study the effects the technology has on society.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said the ban was put in place with data protection concerns in mind.
“Public university faculty — and all public employees — are free to use TikTok on their personal networks,” he wrote.
The lawsuit said the state’s decision to restrict access to TikTok on official devices, as well as on personal devices used to conduct state business, is comprising teaching and research. And more specifically, it said it was “seriously impeding” faculty pursuing research into the app – including research that could illuminate or counter concerns about TikTok.
Critics of TikTok have claimed the popular social media app, owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, could push pro-Beijing propaganda on its platform or hand U.S. user data over to the Chinese government if compelled under the country’s national intelligence laws.
TikTok has long maintained it hasn’t handed over any U.S. data to the Chinese government and says it wouldn’t do so if asked. To fend off the accusations, the company is overseeing a project to store U.S. user data on servers maintained by the software giant Oracle. But the scrutiny hasn’t diminished.
In late November, Montana’s law completely banning TikTok was blocked by a federal judge who called the measure unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said the ban “oversteps state power and infringes on the Constitutional right of users and businesses” while singling out the state for its fixation on purported Chinese influence.