Utah has joined the ranks of US states taking legal action against TikTok, alleging that the company is enticing children into addictive and potentially harmful social media habits. The lawsuit claims that TikTok engages children in prolonged social media use, misrepresenting the app’s safety and falsely presenting itself as independent from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
Utah’s Republican Governor, Spencer Cox, expressed his determination to hold social media companies accountable in a news conference where the lawsuit was announced and filed in a state court in Salt Lake City.
Arkansas and Indiana have also filed similar lawsuits, and the US Supreme Court is poised to address whether state efforts to regulate social media platforms, including Facebook, X, and TikTok, infringe upon the Constitution.
The lawsuit from Utah cites public health concerns, noting that research indicates children who spend over three hours a day on social media are at double the risk of experiencing poor mental health, including anxiety and depression.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes described TikTok’s algorithm features as designed to captivate children with a constant stream of highly tailored content, likening it to a slot machine that keeps them hooked.
The lawsuit seeks to compel TikTok to alter its practices, impose fines and penalties to support educational initiatives, and address the harm caused to Utah children.
In response, TikTok defended its safety measures, including a 60-minute time limit for users under 18 and parental controls for teenage accounts.
Utah had previously passed laws restricting children and teenagers from using social media apps, set to take effect next year, which include a digital curfew and requirements for parental consent and age verification.
However, some child advocates are concerned that these measures may compromise children’s privacy, potentially impacting LGBTQ children whose parents may not accept their identity.