Social Media

TikTok sued by Utah over alleged child addiction harm

Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection is suing TikTok, claiming that the company behind the popular social media app “illegally baits children into addictive and unhealthy use, blatantly misrepresents the app’s safety, and deceptively portrays itself as independent of its China-based parent company, ByteDance.”

The action, announced on Tuesday, is the latest in a string of moves by U.S. bodies to crack down on the app, which many officials fear is a threat to national security due to its links with China.

Utah’s filing focuses on the app’s alleged negative impact on children, claiming that TikTok “surreptitiously designed and deployed addictive features to hook young users into endlessly scrolling through the company’s app.”

It accused TikTok of wanting Utah citizens to “spend as much time on its app as possible so it can place advertisements in front of them more often,” and alleges that the company “misled young users and their parents about the app’s dangers.”

In damning comments shared in a statement on Tuesday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. 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.”

Utah has already passed laws aimed at limiting children’s use of social media apps such as TikTok, and they will come into effect in 2024. The new rules mean that parental consent will have to be given for children to sign up to social media apps, with age verification measures also set to be enforced.

Social media apps will also have to give parents access to their children’s accounts and messages, a measure that some feel is a step too far as it would remove any notion of privacy and could negatively impact children’s mental health.

Digital Trends has reached out to TikTok for comment on Utah’s action and we will update this report when we hear back.

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