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Monday, February 6, 2023

TikTok is being sued by the state of Indiana for violations of state and federal child safety laws

On Wednesday, the state attorney general of Indiana filed one of the first state lawsuits against the popular video service TikTok, accusing the company of misleading users about China’s access to their data and putting children in danger by allowing them to view content deemed inappropriate for them.

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, allegedly broke state consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that the Chinese government has the ability to tap sensitive customer information. This allegation was made by the attorney general, Todd Rokita. TikTok is owned by ByteDance. His office stated in a separate complaint that TikTok deceived young users and their parents with its age rating of 12-plus in Apple’s and Google’s app stores, when in fact inappropriate sexual and substance-related content can be easily found and are pushed by the company to children using the app. This complaint was filed in response to allegations that TikTok deceived young users and their parents with its age rating of 12-plus in Apple’s and Google’s app stores.

Officials in the United States have been working for more than two years to try to have the enormously popular app either banned in the country or forced to modify its ownership structure in order to lessen its ties to China. The app has been included into the effort that the Biden administration is doing to improve the technology supply chains in the United States and to impede China’s ascent as a worldwide leader in technological innovation and export.

The state of Indiana is seeking fines of up to $5,000 per infraction and has requested a state Superior Court to compel TikTok to cease making false and misleading representations about the way it handles data and to stop presenting itself as an app that is suitable for adolescents in their early teenage years.

TikTok has disputed that it transfers data belonging to Americans to the Chinese government and has attempted to distance itself from ByteDance, the company that purchased the app, which was once known as Musical.ly, in 2017 for more than $800 million. TikTok was formerly known as Musical.ly. Since that time, TikTok has exploded in popularity, and current estimates suggest that the app has more than one billion users all over the globe and over one hundred million users in the United States alone.

But its rising popularity and links to China have garnered attention from politicians in the United States as well as rivals like Meta. These parties have warned that TikTok’s expanding impact might harm national interests as well as the strength of the technology industry in the United States.

Concerns over the app’s data gathering practises and the possibility of data being sent to China have kept the Biden administration engaged in discussions with TikTok for many months. At issue are national security issues. A prohibition on the use of the app has been demanded by both Republicans and Democrats. The usage of the software TikTok has been prohibited on official devices by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), military weapons, and three states. The investigations into privacy and national security offences that have been started against TikTok have been initiated by many states. On Wednesday, the Attorney General of Texas issued an order mandating that all state agencies prohibit employees from using the app TikTok on any device that is provided by the state.

TikTok was issued a warning by British authorities in September, stating that the company might be subject to penalties of up to $29 million for breaking new regulations safeguarding the privacy of youngsters. The European Commission has also begun investigations into TikTok for allegedly transmitting the data of EU nationals to the Chinese government and for allegedly directing advertisements toward minors. Both of these allegations are unproven at this time.

In order to ward off the increasing amount of attention, the firm spent more than $4.2 million into lobbying politicians and the White House over the first three quarters of the year.

Shou Zi Chew, the chief executive of TikTok, has also been engaging in a charm offensive in an effort to appease critics. He has said that the data of American users would be hosted on servers managed by the American cloud computing corporation Oracle, and he opposes the notion that the Chinese government would be able to access such data.

The Attorney General of Indiana said that such promises were not believable due to the fact that Chinese law gives the government the ability to seek data from an American affiliate. In response to the lawsuit, TikTok has said that it would ultimately destroy any “protected” data associated with users in the United States from its servers. However, the complaint claims that it is not clear what data constitutes “protected” data.

According to the lawsuit, the corporation is misleading its customers by concealing the potential dangers posed by China’s access. TikTok notifies users in Europe that their data may be accessed by anyone located outside of Europe, including those located in China. According to the attorney general, questions still need to be answered about TikTok’s history of allegedly exchanging data and technical resources with ByteDance.

TikTok has implemented a function that enables parents to connect their account to that of their children. This gives them the ability to monitor and manage the content that their adolescents see on the app as well as the amount of time they spend using it. According to a source with knowledge of the preparations, a number of state attorneys general are likely to submit letters to Apple and Google requesting that their app stores boost the age recommendation for users of TikTok to be at least 17.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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