Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Coalition of professors sues Gov. Abbott over TikTok ban, claiming it hinders research

Rong Hua Wang

After the state of Texas banned TikTok on state devices and networks — including at public universities like UT — a group of professors who said the law imposed on their First Amendment rights filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott on July 13.  

The Coalition for Independent Technology Research consists of professors and researchers from across the country who came together to protest the ban. Coalition member Dave Karpf said the TikTok ban imposed on professors’ research and teachings.

“There’s a broader move going on for government overreach into what (professors) are allowed to study and how we’re allowed to teach,” Karpf, a George Washington University associate professor said. “And when that overreach gets absurd, it’s important for us to draw a line.”

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University helped the coalition file a lawsuit against Abbott. Stacy Livingston, one of the lawyers working on the case, said Jacqueline Vickery, coalition member and University of North Texas associate professor, focuses her research specifically on TikTok and involves a substantial portion in her teaching as well. The ban forced Vickery to change her ways of teaching, researching and even peer-reviewing, which impacts scholars outside of Texas, Livingston said.

Livingston said Texas’ decision to ban TikTok by means of decreasing data collection and the spread of misinformation only deterred researchers from actually solving the issue.

“The response to ban a platform rather than understand it is really troubling to the legal community and to all these professors who are trying to contribute to the task of understanding what the risks really are around a platform like TikTok (or any platforms) that have similar significant impacts on the way culture works and how society operates right now,” Livingston said. 

Because of TikToks’s sudden boost in today’s culture, Karpfsaid a lot of research on TikTok remains insufficient. 

“If we want to understand TikTok’s impact on society, good or bad, you probably don’t want to shut down independent research that actually studies it because you’ll be left with only press releases from TikTok,” Karpf said. 

Research builds off of other research, so the TikTok ban affects researchers all over, not just the Texas researchers, Karpf said. 

“High-quality research on the platforms is too rare and is constantly threatened, usually by the platforms themselves, but in this case by the government that passed a law that I think is dangerously and absurdly overbroad,” Karpf said. “We looked at it and said, ‘This is both a really bad precedent and a ridiculous law.’”

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About the Contributor
Rong Hua Wang, Senior Comics Illustrator
Rong Hua is a second year student studying Computer Science and Arts and Entertainment Technologies. This is her second semester as the Senior Comics Illustrator; previously, she was an Opinion Illustrator during Fall 2021. Loving all things creative, she enjoys doodling and crocheting in her free time.