INDIANAPOLIS — Attorney General Todd Rokita, on behalf of the state of Indiana, is suing the social media platform TikTok and its parent company ByteDance over alleged security and child safety violations.
Rokita announced two lawsuits against the popular video-sharing platform on Wednesday. Both, he said, are related to TikTok using "false, deceptive and misleading practices, which violate Indiana law.”
The first lawsuit accused TikTok of luring kids onto the platform by making it appear as though the app is age appropriate and only contains “infrequent/mild” sexual content, profanity, or drug references.
By doing this, the lawsuit claims, TikTok is able to get a 12+ rating on the Apple App Store and a “T” for “teen” rating in the Google Play Store and the Microsoft Store.
On its website, TikTok suggests those ratings on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are intentional. The platform said because TikTok has those ratings, parents are able to prevent their kids from downloading the app using the parental controls in either of the app stores.
Rokita argues that when kids get on the platform, they're exposed to "nonstop offerings of inappropriate content that TikTok’s algorithm force feeds to them." He added that this has resulted in "devastating" harm to children and society at large.
According to TikTok's Guardian's Guide, parents are able to put their child's TikTok in restricted mode, set up screen time management or pair their accounts with their child's.
Indiana's lawsuit says that that's not enough, arguing that this is just another rouse to get kids on the platform.
"An essential part of TikTok’s business model is presenting the application as safe and appropriate for children ages 13 to 17," the lawsuit says.
“In multiple ways, TikTok represents a clear and present danger to Hoosiers that is hiding in plain sight in their own pockets,” Rokita said. “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."
The second lawsuit asserts that TikTok has collected a wealth of information on Indiana consumers and made them think that their information and personal data are protected from the Chinese government.
According to the lawsuit, TikTok stores its U.S. user data on servers owned and operated and/or hosted by Chinese companies, putting that data at risk of being accessed by China’s national intelligence institutions and cybersecurity regulators.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit claims, TikTok "bends over backward" to downplay its association with China.
The lawsuits seek emergency injunctive relief and civil penalties against the company.
"We hope these lawsuits force TikTok to come clean and change its ways," Rokita said.