INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana's attorney general on Wednesday sued Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, claiming the video-sharing platform misleads its users, particularly children, about the level of inappropriate content and security of consumer information.
Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita claimed in a complaint filed Wednesday that while the social video app says it is safe for users 13 years and older, the app contains “salacious and inappropriate content" available to young users “for unlimited periods of time, day and night, in an effort to line TikTok’s pockets with billions of dollars from U.S. consumers.”
A separate complaint from Rokita argues the app has users' sensitive and personal information but deceives consumers into believing that information is secure.
“At the very least, the company owes consumers the truth about the age-appropriateness of its content and the insecurity of the data it collects on users," Rokita said in a press release Wednesday.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. The app has been targeted by Republicans who say the Chinese government could access its user data like browsing history and location. U.S. armed forces also have prohibited the app on military devices.
In a company statement, TikTok said its “top priority” is “the safety, privacy and security of our community.”
“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,” the statement said. "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.”
The app exploded in popularity with a nearly addictive scroll of videos, but it has also struggled to detect ads that contain blatant misinformation about U.S. elections, according to an October 2020 report from nonprofit Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy team at New York University.
Most recently, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday banned the use of TikTok and certain China and Russia-based platforms in the state’s executive branch of government, a measure to address cybersecurity risks presented by the platforms.
That directive followed Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem banning state employees and contractors on Nov. 29 from accessing TikTok on state-owned devices, citing the app's ties to China. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, also a Republican, on Monday asked the state’s Department of Administration to ban TikTok from all state government devices it manages. In August 2020, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts blocked TikTok on state electronic devices.
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Arleigh Rodgers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers