Utah has joined the list of states taking legal action against TikTok, accusing the social media giant of enticing children into addictive and unhealthy usage patterns. In the lawsuit filed in Salt Lake City, Utah claims that TikTok misrepresents its safety measures and misleadingly presents itself as separate from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
Republican Governor Spencer Cox expressed his determination to ensure social media companies are held accountable for their actions. “We will not stand by while these companies fail to take adequate, meaningful action to protect our children,” he stated during a press conference.
The lawsuits against TikTok are not isolated incidents. Arkansas and Indiana have also taken legal action, while the U.S. Supreme Court is set to make a decision on whether state efforts to regulate social media platforms such as Meta’s Facebook, Elon Musk’s X, and TikTok actually violate the Constitution.
Public health concerns are a primary focus in Utah’s lawsuit. According to the allegations, research demonstrates that children who spend more than three hours per day on social media face double the risk of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
TikTok Faces Lawsuit Over Impact on Children
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spoke at a news conference, highlighting the harmful effects of TikTok’s algorithm features on children. He compared these features to a addictive slot machine, keeping kids engrossed with endless curated content. Seeking a solution, Reyes filed a lawsuit against TikTok, aiming to bring about change in the platform’s “destructive behavior.” Additionally, fines and penalties imposed on TikTok will fund education initiatives to address the damage caused to Utah children.
While TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide was not available for immediate comment on the lawsuit, Utah has already taken steps this year to limit social media use among children and teenagers. Becoming the first state to pass such laws, these measures will be implemented next year.
The regulations include a digital curfew for individuals under 18, requiring parental consent for them to join social media apps. Furthermore, tech companies are obligated to verify the ages of their Utah users. Apart from this, parents will gain access to their children’s accounts and private messages. However, concerns have been raised by child advocates about the potential negative impact on children’s mental health. Particularly, LGBTQ+ children may face additional challenges should their parents not accept their identity due to the loss of privacy.
Through this lawsuit and upcoming legislation, Utah aims to protect its children from the harmful effects of social media platforms like TikTok.