Politics

Utah files second lawsuit against TikTok, alleges app has created ‘virtual strip club’

This is the State's of Utah's second lawsuit against the social media app

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes filed a lawsuit today alleging that social media giant TikTok has consciously allowed young people to be sexually exploited on its app in exchange for money.

The suit alleges that TikTok’s live streaming component, TikTok LIVE, allows adults to give in-app currency to underage users in exchange for “sexual solicitation and exploitation,” with the company taking a portion of each payment.

“TikTok has created a virtual strip club allowing minors to be exploited across America by connecting innocent victims to predators in real-time,” Reyes said. “Adding insult to injury, Live facilitates money laundering while TikTok quietly charges fifty percent on every transaction to profit in the billions from the entire enterprise.”

According to the suit, internal studies conducted by TikTok as well as the admissions of the company’s employees have documented how this live streaming feature has allowed adults to sexually exploit young users for in-app currency that can be exchanged for real money.

TikTok then takes as much as 50% commission on each of these transactions, raking in millions of dollars in the Beehive State alone.

“Our investigation confirmed TikTok knows of the damage to young victims but feels it makes far too much money to stop,” Reyes said. “There are so many layers of harm in its practices that we cannot wait a day longer to act. The State of Utah is front and center in the fight against child exploitation. This suit is just one of many ways we are fighting for child safety online.”

The suit alleges that the app’s live stream feature and virtual currency also open the door for other illegal activities, including money laundering, gambling rings, drug sales and terrorism.

“I find the new allegations against TikTok Live not merely concerning but incredibly disturbing. Such disregard for the safety of young users on the platform, much less profiting off their exploitation, cannot and will not be tolerated,” Cox said. “We will take all necessary actions to protect them from TikTok’s egregious behavior.”

The suit asks that the court order TikTok to pay restitution and actual damages on behalf of consumers, pay a disgorgement of all funds made in connection with illegal activity, and pay civil penalties.

Cox and Reyes filed an initial lawsuit in October 2023, alleging 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.

Earlier this year, Cox approved an overhaul of social media laws meant to protect children, requiring user age verification, and disabling certain features on accounts owned by Utah youths.

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