Indiana filed a pair of lawsuits this week against Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok over its alleged directing of inappropriate content toward children and several security concerns.
This marked the first attempt by a U.S. state to hold the company legally accountable for its content and security practices.
In a trend that is picking up speed among state governments, state Attorney General Todd Rokita told the Wall Street Journal that the company is “deceiving Indiana parents.”
He added that the platform is exposing young children to “drug use, alcohol abuse, profanity, and sexually explicit material.” TikTok, the AG declared, “is a malicious and menacing threat unleashed on unsuspecting consumers” and guilty of “false, deceptive, and misleading practices.”
This suit asserts that TikTok uses its algorithm to target younger users to become addicted through age-inappropriate content. Also, the state alleges that by billing itself as suitable for ages 12 and older, the Chinese company is in violation of Indiana’s consumer protection statutes.
The algorithm reportedly “force-feeds” unsuitable content to children even if its “restricted mode” is activated.
This setting is supposed to filter out mature content.
Breaking News: Indiana filed lawsuits accusing TikTok of exposing minors to mature content and deceiving users about China’s access to their data. https://t.co/BZxVunCfgs
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 7, 2022
Indiana is asking for TikTok to pay $5,000 in penalties for each violation of the state’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, along with other fines.
The second suit reiterates claims made by both the federal and state governments that the company harvests vast amounts of personal data that is readily available to the Communist Chinese government. This, the filing alleges, puts U.S. users at risk for spying and blackmail attempts.
The data, according to the filing, is accessible to “China’s oppressive regime” and subject to laws requiring all of the country’s businesses to assist the government in gathering intelligence.
Former President Donald Trump late in his administration attempted to ban the platform from the U.S. but encountered a host of legal challenges. The Federal Communications Commission recently warned of security risks posed by use of the app.
Incidentally, the platform is banned in China.
With the federal government lagging in national security, states are filling in the gaps by banning TikTok’s use by their employees. North Dakota, Maryland, and most recently Texas restricted their workers and state agencies from the platform, citing security risks.