Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

'The TikTok App Is A Malicious And Menacing Threat': Indiana Files First State Lawsuits Against TikTok

Indiana's attorney general sued the platform Wednesday, saying in two lawsuits that the app features inappropriate content for children and doesn't adequately protect their user data.

By

Indiana's attorney general filed two lawsuits against TikTok Wednesday, which made it the first lawsuit against the social media company from a state — and an escalation of regulatory issues for the company.

NurPhoto / Contributor I Getty Images
TikTok.

Attorney General Todd Rokita said in the suits that the company provided inappropriate content to children and that it did not protect user data adequately, per CBS News.

TikTok has faced regulatory scrutiny (and alarm from politicians) since it crashed on U.S. shores in 2018 (after merging with Musical.ly) — the company was fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 for collecting the information of people under 13 without parental consent, per TechCrunch.

However, many of the ongoing issues are related to the fact that TikTok is owned by parent company ByteDance, which is based in China.

Around 67% of teens 13 to 17 say they have used TikTok, per Pew Research Center..

Politicians have expressed concerns that U.S. user data could be accessible to the Chinese government, which has strict laws that force private companies to share virtually all user data with it. So far, TikTok has been banned on government phones in states including Maryland, South Carolina, and South Dakota, per CBS.

TikTok says its U.S. user data is not processed in China and is routed through the U.S. and Singapore. It is also in talks with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. in order to continue to operate in the country, though those negotiations have reportedly been delayed over national security concerns, anonymous sources told the Wall Street Journal.

TikTok The Washington Post in a statement via email that TikTok has features such as age restrictions and parental controls, and that "youth well-being" is part of the app's rules.

"While we don't comment on pending litigation, the safety, privacy and security of our community is our top priority," the spokesperson told the outlet.

"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," the company spokesperson added.

Eight state attorneys general including Kentucky and New Jersey already launched an investigation into the platform in March over how it impacts children. But this is a separate legal issue.

Rokita's lawsuit on data privacy claims that the platform gives user data to the Chinese government and that the company's claims it is not stored in China are not true, per the Post.

"While TikTok vacuums up reams of this highly sensitive and personal information about Indiana consumers, it deceives and misleads them about the risks the app routinely poses to their data," the suit says.

As for the appropriateness issue, the other suit cites a few examples that claim TikTok serves users inappropriate content, from the lyrics of "WAP" by Cardi B to the persistent practice of users misspelling words slightly to avoid content moderation — making it easy to find explicit content on the platform. It also says the app's younger user mode doesn't keep people from seeing this type of content.

"TikTok intentionally falsely reports the frequency of sexual content, nudity, and mature/suggestive themes on the TikTok platform to the App Store because TikTok wants to keep and increase young users' engagement with the TikTok platform," the lawsuit says, per the Post.

Finally, the suit references a Forbes investigation that shows how sexually explicit content about minors proliferates on TikTok. People create TikTok accounts with videos that are set to "private," and then give out the login credentials to other people.

"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," Rokita said in the statement.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks