OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
4:05 PM – Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Utah has become the most recent state in the United States to file a lawsuit against the app TikTok, proclaiming that the social media platform is “baiting” children into addictive habits that are damaging their mental health.
The state of Utah sued TikTok on Tuesday, accusing the app of causing harm to mental health and creating addictive behaviors in minors.
During a news conference in Salt Lake City that touched on the lawsuit, Governor Spencer Cox (R-Utah) made a statement regarding the situation.
“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,” the governor announced.
In Utah’s lawsuit, it is alleged that TikTok entices children into “addictive social media usage,” distorting the app’s safety protocols and falsely representing itself as independent of its Chinese ownership company, ByteDance.
The lawsuit focuses on accusations that claim the platform persuades children to use the app for prolonged periods of time and how it is “not honest about its safety issues.”
According to the Associated Press (AP), the Beehive State now joins Arkansas and Indiana in similar lawsuits against the Chinese-owned app. The U.S. Supreme Court is also preparing to understand whether the state will attempt to ban other social media apps, such as Facebook or X, formerly known as Twitter, and if the apps go against the Constitution.
In December 2022, Cox had already enforced a ban on the social media company in the government branches of Utah, citing concerns related to the security of the app and its relations with China. However, the ban was not scheduled to take effect until 2024.
“China’s access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity,” Cox said in a statement at the time. “As a result, we’ve deleted our TikTok account and ordered the same on all state-owned devices. We must protect Utahans and make sure that the people of Utah can trust the state’s security systems.”
There were several health concerns referenced in the Utah lawsuit. Further research on the topic purportedly showed that children who spend over three hours a day on social media double their risk of “flawed mental health,” such as struggling with anxiety or depression, according to the lawsuit.
“TikTok designed and employs algorithm features that spoon-feed 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.
Utah’s lawsuit is aiming to compel the TikTok app to change its “destructive behavior” while implementing several fines and penalties to help fund educational efforts and to manage the detriments done to Utah youth.
However, a TikTok spokesperson made a statement that was later emailed to The Hill, which claimed that the app has “industry-leading safeguards for young people” like “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,” the statement read.
Earlier this year, Utah became one of the very first U.S. states to pass laws that restrict children and teens from the use of social media platforms, such as TikTok.
Therefore, this will include implementing a digital curfew for those under the age of 18, which will mandate minors to retrieve parental consent in order to continue using the app.
Additionally, Utah will request that tech companies provide parents and guardians access to their children’s accounts and private messages, which has some youth advocates worried that this may worsen the mental health of minors.
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