Indiana sues TikTok over data security, targeting children with mature content
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) filed two lawsuits against TikTok under the state’s consumer protection laws this week, alleging the platform deceived users about mature content and the Chinese government’s ability to access user data.
The first complaint alleges that TikTok misleadingly markets itself as appropriate for children ages 13 to 17 in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store despite abundant mature content. The second lawsuit asserts that the video-hosting platform, which is owned by Chinese-based ByteDance, deceived consumers to believe their information is protected from the Chinese Communist Party.
Both suits seek to prevent TikTok from continuing its allegedly deceptive practices and demand civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.
“In multiple ways, TikTok represents a clear and present danger to Hoosiers that is hiding in plain sight in their own pockets,” Rokita said in a statement. “At the very least, the company owes consumers the truth about the age-appropriateness of its content and the insecurity of the data it collects on users. We hope these lawsuits force TikTok to come clean and change its ways.”
The platform has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and U.S. officials for its ties to Beijing, and the Biden administration remains in negotiations over a security deal with the platform.
TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter declined to comment specifically on the lawsuits but in a statement stressed the platform’s security features.
“We build youth well-being into our policies, limit features by age, empower parents with tools and resources and continue to invest in new ways to enjoy content based on age-appropriateness or family comfort,” she said. “We are also confident that we’re on a path in our negotiations with the U.S. government to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns, and we have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions.”
Rokita’s concerns over Americans’ data on TikTok has been shared by many officials, including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, who told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell this week that parents should be worried about their kids’ privacy on the platform given the Chinese government connections.
But the lawsuit over TikTok’s descriptions on Apple and Google’s app stores add an additional layer of concern by Rokita to children’s safety on the platform, arguing that TikTok’s claims of “infrequent” and “mild” references to drugs, sexual content and profanity are downplayed to increase the platform’s user base among teens.
TikTok advertises an age rating of 12+ in the Apple App Store and teen on the Google Play Store, meaning the content is generally suitable ages 13 and up. Rokita’s lawsuit argues the only appropriate rating in Apple’s store is 17+.
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