States Investigate TikTok Over Potential Harms to Younger Users

A bipartisan group of state attorney generals announced Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into possible harm to young users of TikTok and the popular social media application.

At least eight states are investigating whether TikTok’s design and promotion harms the physical and mental health of adolescents and young adults and if the company has violated state consumer protection laws. TikTok’s test, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, is similar to the Facebook probe launched by the Coalition of Attorney Generals last November. (Facebook’s parent company has been renamed Meta.)

The states led by Massachusetts, Nebraska and California are investigating how TikTok may have tried to increase engagement and keep young users connected to the app.

“Children and adolescents are already grappling with issues of anxiety, social pressure and depression, so we cannot allow social media to do more harm to their physical health and mental well-being,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Haley said in a statement. “The state’s attorney general must protect young people and find out more about how companies like TikTok are influencing their daily lives.”

TikTok said it has implemented security and privacy measures aimed at protecting teenage users.

The company said in a statement: “We are very concerned about building an experience that helps protect and support the well-being of our community and appreciate that the state attorney general is focusing on the safety of young users,” the company said in a statement. .

The issue of online child safety has been at the center of Washington, and social media companies have come under intense scrutiny for their potential harm to children and adolescents. Internal documents leaked from the Facebook whistle-blower last year revealed to the company that some teenage users of Instagram feel bad about themselves and their body images after using the app.

Some members of Congress, at a hearing on child online safety late last year, said they had heard from families that teenage girls were being directed at harmful content on Instagram that contributes to eating disorders and self-harm. Since then, legislators have introduced a number of bills aimed at curbing child-targeted advertising and preventing social media companies from tracking young users’ data.

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden called for online privacy and other regulatory protections for youth, saying “we should hold social media accountable for the national experiment they are doing on our children for profit.”

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