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Utah sues TikTok, alleges harms to teens

Oct 10, 2023, 10:59 AM | Updated: 3:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah filed a lawsuit against social media giant TikTok, alleging harm to teenage users. Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes announced the lawsuit Tuesday.

“We will be using our existing laws where appropriate to hold social media companies accountable for the harms caused to our children and youth,” Cox said. “Today we are doing just that. Earlier this morning the state of Utah filed a lawsuit against TikTok after a lengthy and ongoing investigation.”

Cox explained that Utah would continue to “lead out” and protect children from the harms of social media and that this was not a partisan issue.

“We will not stand by while these companies fail to take adequate meaningful action to protect our children,” Cox said. “We will hold social media companies accountable by any means necessary.”

Cox and Utah lawmakers have focused multiple efforts in the last year to fight social media companies including launching a media campaign about the harms and passing two bills restricting how social media companies can operate within the state.

Reyes said the new lawsuit is the result of an investigation launched over a year ago.

“Our complaint alleges TikTok has violated both the trust of Utahns and multiple provisions of Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act,” Reyes said. “We seek injunctive relief to force TikTok to change its destructive behavior and fines and penalties we hope to fund education, mitigation, and reparation of damage to Utah kids.”

The lawsuit alleges that TikTok’s algorithm intentionally creates addiction and “spoon feeds endless, highly-curated content to kids who struggle to disengage.”

Reyes said TikTok targets kids and lies to parents to create a false sense of security by claiming they take proactive steps to moderate content, require age verification and mitigate harm to kids.

“But the company allows disturbing content and dangerous challenges to reach children without making efforts to stop that,” Reyes said.

Finally, Reyes explained the company lies about its own structure.

“The company is siphoning large amounts of personal data from our kids every time they use the platform,” Reyes said.

The attorney general said TikTok has not complied with investigative subpoenas issued a long time ago. 

The lawsuit is not the first of its kind targeting TikTok, Indiana filed two lawsuits against the company earlier this year.

“Our efforts to demand accountability from TikTok did not start yesterday and will not end tomorrow,” Reyes said.

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Utah sues TikTok, alleges harms to teens