Utah sues TikTok claiming app ‘baits children into addictive and unhealthy use’

The Attorney General recently filed a contempt motion after TikTok failed to properly comply with investigative subpoenas

UTAH — Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced their lawsuit against the social media company TikTok today.

After what it called an “extensive investigation,” the state alleges that TikTok illegally baits children into addictive and unhealthy use, misrepresents the app’s safety, and portrays itself as independent of its China-based parent company ByteDance.

“We will no longer tolerate TikTok misleading parents that its app is safe for children,” Cox said. “Social media companies must be held responsible for the harms they are causing. The experts — from the U.S. Surgeon General and behavioral science researchers to parents and teens — all agree that social media is affecting our children’s mental health and it’s time to intervene.”

In a complaint filed in state court, the Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection alleges that TikTok uses addictive features to get young users to endlessly scroll through the app, effectively getting them to view more ads.

The complaint also states that the social media company misled young users and their parents as to the app’s perceived dangers.

The suit brings claims under the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act, and alleges that prolonged use of the TikTok app interferes with children’s mental health and wellbeing.

“My top priority is protecting our children in Utah,” Reyes said. “I’m tired of TikTok lying to Utah parents. I’m tired of our kids losing their innocence and even their lives addicted to the dark side of social media. TikTok will only change if put at legal risk—and ‘at risk’ is where they have left our youth in exchange for profit and greed. Immediate and pervasive threats require swift and bold responses. We have a compelling case against TikTok. Our kids are worth the fight.”

The suit also alleges that TikTok has misled its users about how the company is associated with its parent company, China-based ByteDance.

“The complaint cites leaked documents that suggest ‘key messages’ the company wanted to present to the public, including that TikTok should ‘downplay the parent company ByteDance, [and] downplay the China association,'” said a press release from the Office of the Governor.

With its lawsuit, the state is seeking to stop TikTok’s alleged illegal business practices, and asks the court to impose a penalty and other relief to deter the app and other social media companies from committing similar state law violations in the future.

The state will continue its investigation into TikTok.

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