Indiana sues TikTok for violating child safety and security
Indiana’s attorney general on Wednesday sued Chinese app TikTok for misleading users about China’s access to their data and for exposing children to mature content, in the company’s first prosecution. State versus the popular video service.
Todd Rokita, the attorney general, claimed that TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, violated state consumer protection laws by not disclosing the Chinese government’s ability to exploit sensitive consumer information. His office said in a separate complaint that TikTok misled young users and their parents with its age rating of over 12 in Apple and Google’s app stores, when in fact the content inappropriate sexual and substance-related material can be easily found and pushed by the company. to children using the app.
US officials have been fighting for more than two years to either ban the hugely popular app or force it to change its ownership structure to reduce its affiliations with China. The app has been dragged into the Biden administration’s efforts to bolster U.S. tech supply chains and slow China’s rise as a global tech innovator and exporter.
Indiana is seeking penalties of up to $5,000 per violation and has asked a state Superior Court to order TikTok to end false and misleading claims about its data processing and stop committing itself. market as an appropriate app for young teens.
“TikTok is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the attorney general’s office said.
TikTok declined to comment on the Indiana lawsuits, but its spokeswoman, Brooke Oberwetter, said “the safety, privacy and security of our community is our top priority.”
“We’re building youth wellbeing into our policies, limiting features by age, giving parents tools and resources, and continuing to invest in new ways to enjoy content based on age or comfort. family,” she added.
The Biden administration has been locked in negotiations with TikTok for months over national security concerns related to the app’s data collection and potential data transfers to China. Republicans and Democrats have called for the app to be banned. Several states have opened investigations into TikTok for breaches of privacy and national security, while the Transportation Security Administration, military arms and three states have banned the use of the app on official devices. On Wednesday, the Texas attorney general ordered state agencies to ban the use of TikTok on all government-issued devices.
In September, UK regulators warned TikTok that it could face up to $29 million in fines for breaking new laws protecting children’s privacy. The European Commission has also opened investigations into TikTok for allegedly sending the data of EU citizens to the Chinese government and for targeting advertisements at minors.
TikTok cited its Los Angeles and Singapore offices as proof of its independence and said the Chinese government had never attempted to access US user data. The company spent more than $4.2 million in the first three quarters of the year lobbying lawmakers and the White House to avoid mounting scrutiny.
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew has also gone on a charm offensive to appease critics. He said US user data would be hosted on servers controlled by US cloud computing company Oracle and disputed that the Chinese government could access that data.
The Indiana attorney general said those assurances were not credible because Chinese law gives the government the power to demand data from a U.S. subsidiary. TikTok promised to eventually remove all “protected” data of US users from TikTok systems, but the lawsuit said it was unclear what qualified as “protected” data.
By not disclosing the risks of China’s access, the company is misleading consumers, according to the lawsuit. In Europe, TikTok reveals that user data can be viewed by people outside of Europe, including those in China. Suspicions remain about TikTok’s history of sharing data and engineering resources with ByteDance, the attorney general said.
“TikTok knowingly misled and deceived consumers in Indiana, and continues to do so,” the complaint states. “If the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party want access to US TikTok user data, they can get it.”
The second complaint describes TikTok, which is popular with young people, as a “Trojan horse” that lures teenagers through its marketing as a safe app for people aged 12 and over, but submits them then to inappropriate sexual practices, alcohol and drugs. – linked content. TikTok’s policy statement that there is “infrequent” or “lightweight” mature content on the app belies the abundance of disturbing content that is easily accessible to younger users, according to the suit.
Regarding the US government’s investigation, Ms Oberwetter, spokesperson for TikTok, said: “We are confident that we are on track to fully satisfy all reasonable national security concerns of the United States and have already made significant progress towards implementing these solutions.
TikTok has introduced a feature that allows parents to link their account to their children’s, so they can control what their teens see on the app and how much time they spend there. But even in “restricted” mode, a feature meant to block certain mature content, sexually explicit content can still reach younger users, according to the complaint. Many state attorneys general are expected to write letters to Apple and Google asking that their app stores raise the age of TikTok users to at least 17, a person familiar with the efforts said.
“TikTok is Joe Camel on steroids,” the complaint reads.
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