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In a prominent Indian law journal, Apratim Vidyarthi L’22 argues that the Trump Administration’s proposed blanket TikTok ban would cause immense harm

February 10, 2022

Vidyarthi’s paper, co-authored by Rachel Hulvey, a PhD candidate at Penn, was recently published in the Indian Journal of Law and Technology.

When the Indian Journal of Law and Technology asked Apratim Vidyarthi L’22 to write about the potential ramifications of the Trump Administration’s proposed ban on TikTok vis à vis online speech, U.S. Internet Policy, and issues of data storage and collection, he embraced the opportunity. Vidyarthi reached out to Rachel Hulvey, a Penn PhD candidate (Political Science) with extensive experience in internet policy whom he met while doing research for Beth Simmons, Andrea Mitchell University Professor in Law, Political Science and Business Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; their collaboration resulted in “Building Digital Walls and Making Speech and Internet Freedom (or Chinese Technology) Pay for It.”

In their paper, regarding the effects of the proposed ban, Vidyarthi and Hulvey write that “[t]here may be First Amendment implications, and at the very least, a chilling of speech. There are also significant impacts on American foreign policy, from legitimizing the Chinese strategy of cyber-sovereignty and government regulation, to the creation of incentives to localize data in a manner that might undermine American law enforcement efforts.”

Vidyarthi highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the issues involved.

“It was a really interesting process working with Rachel,” said Vidyarthi, “because she is a PhD student whose background is in political science and international relations. That interdisciplinary combination made both of us a good fit for the paper, because the Trump Administration’s TikTok ban was done through domestic law but had and has significant repercussions for international policies and law regarding internet freedom.”

The journal, explained Vidyarthi, reached out to him just as the TikTok ban was signed.

“India was emulating such a ban because of potential Chinese propaganda on the platform,” he said. “So I figured this was a good and relevant topic, especially given our contemporary privacy concerns with respect to TikTok (a topic I’ve had ample discussion with my classmates on), and our worries of government overreach in regulating technology.”

The Indian Journal of Law and Technology is among the most prominent in India, regularly publishing scholarship by Indian Supreme Court justices and U.S. law professors as well as technology advocates.

Vidyarthi noted that Sarah Pierce, Associate Dean for Legal Practice Skills and Academic Director of the JD/MBA Capstone Program was “incredibly helpful” in the formulation of the paper, particularly with how to best frame and strengthen arguments.

“I also found the material I’d learned in ‘Internet Law’ with Christopher S. Yoo [John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer and Information Science], ‘Privacy Law’ with Yoo and [Lecturer in Law] Lauren Steinfeld C’89, and ‘First Amendment Law with Seth Kreimer [Kenneth W. Gemmill Professor of Law] incredibly helpful,” said Vidyarthi. “’Internet Law’ was useful in helping understand how the internet is governed both domestically and internationally, and how our legal infrastructure is adapting to the digital era. ‘Privacy Law’ was useful in assessing the government’s claims regarding TikTok’s impacts on privacy. And of course, ‘First Amendment Law’ was useful in understanding how even an app ban can impact speech, both as time/place/manner restrictions, as well as by chilling speech.”

Vidyarthi, who is a native of New Delhi, India, holds a BS in Nuclear Engineering and BA in Applied Math from the University of California-Berkeley and an MS in Engineering and Technology Innovation Management from Carnegie Mellon University. He is interested in First and Fourth Amendment law as well as technology law.

Read the full article at the Indian Journal of Law and Technology.