TikTok: Utah sues popular platform due to ‘addictive and destructive social media habits' in children

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Utah has become the latest US state to sue TikTok due to health and safety concerns and the apparent negative impact on children

Utah has become the latest US state to sue popular social media site and app TikTok, alleging the company is “baiting” children into addictive and unhealthy social media habits.

The United States state claims in a lawsuit that TikTok lures children into hours of social media use, misrepresents the app’s safety and deceptively portrays itself as independent of its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. “We will not stand by while these companies fail to take adequate, meaningful action to protect our children. We will prevail in holding social media companies accountable by any means necessary,” Republican Governor Spencer Cox said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit, which was filed in state court in Salt Lake City, according to PA news agency.

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Other US states such as Arkansas and Indiana have filed similar lawsuits against TikTok. It comes as the US Supreme Court prepares to decide whether states' attempts to regulate social media platforms such as Facebook, X and TikTok violate the Constitution.

‘A cruel slot machine’

The reason for the action against TikTok is given as public health concerns in the Utah lawsuit. Research has shown that children who spend more than three hours a day on social media double their risk of poor mental health, including anxiety and depression, the lawsuit alleges.

Utah has sued TikTok due to ‘addictive and destructive social media habits' in children. Stock image by Adobe Photos.Utah has sued TikTok due to ‘addictive and destructive social media habits' in children. Stock image by Adobe Photos.
Utah has sued TikTok due to ‘addictive and destructive social media habits' in children. Stock image by Adobe Photos. | Natalia - stock.adobe.com

“TikTok designed and employs algorithm features that spoonfeed kids endless, highly curated content from which our children struggle to disengage. TikTok designed these features to mimic a cruel slot machine that hooks kids’ attention and does not let them go,” Utah attorney general Sean Reyes said at the news conference. The lawsuit seeks to force TikTok to change its “destructive behaviour” while imposing fines and penalties to fund education efforts and otherwise address damage done to Utah children, Mr Reyes added.

“TikTok has industry-leading safeguards for young people, including an automatic 60-minute time limit for users under 18 and parental controls for teen accounts. We will continue to work to keep our community safe by tackling industry-wide challenges,” TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek said in a statement.

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Earlier this year, Utah became the first state to pass laws that aim to limit children and teen use of social media apps such as TikTok. The laws are set to take effect next year. They will impose a digital curfew on people under 18, which will require minors to get parental consent to sign up for social media apps and force companies to verify the ages of all their Utah users.

They also require technology companies to give parents access to their children’s accounts and private messages, raising concern among some child advocates about further harming children’s mental health. Depriving children of privacy, they say, could be detrimental for LGBT+ children whose parents are not accepting of their identity.

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