US Sues TikTok Over Child Safety and Data Security Claims


Indiana’s attorney general filed two separate lawsuits against social media firm TikTok Wednesday alleging the platform promoted content to young users that isn’t age-appropriate and did not adequately protect the safety of users’ data.

According to court documents, the TikTok algorithm “promotes a variety of inappropriate content to 13-17-year-old users throughout the United States.”

Indiana’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, further accused TikTok of providing “abundant content depicting alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; sexual content, nudity, and suggestive themes; and intense profanity.”

More specifically, the court said that TikTok promoted this content regardless of a user’s age, “which means that it is available to users registered with ages as young as 13.”

The other lawsuit, on the other hand, claimed that Chinese authorities could access TikTok users’ data.

“The Chinese Government and Communist Party have a demonstrated interest in the kind of data that TikTok collects on its users, which they can use to spy on, blackmail, and coerce those users, or to further develop China’s artificial intelligence capabilities.”

Regardless of the veracity of these claims, TikTok was already under scrutiny in the US this year for reportedly engaging in excessive data collection.

More recently, the company confirmed that some employees outside Europe, including in China, could access the data of individuals using the app in Europe.

“TikTok tells Indiana consumers that their data is protected by comprehensive company protocols and practices, including rigid access controls managed by a US-based security team,” Rokita said. “TikTok says it has never given the Chinese Government access to that data and that it never would.”

Despite these claims, however, the court claimed TikTok stored US user data, including Indiana consumers’ data, on servers owned, operated or hosted by Chinese companies subject to Chinese law.

“The safety, privacy and security of our community is our top priority,” said Brooke Oberwetter, head of policy communications at TikTok, in an email to Infosecurity. “We build youth well-being into our policies, limit features by age, empower parents with tools and resources, and continue to invest in new ways to enjoy content based on age-appropriateness or family comfort.”

Oberwetter added, “We are also confident that we’re on a path in our negotiations with the U.S. Government to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns, and we have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions.” 

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