The popularity of TikTok, the social networking platform owned by ByteDance, has reached dizzying heights worldwide, attracting users of all ages. Recently, however, the platform has faced a major legal setback in Utah.
The state's Division of Consumer Protection (UDCP) has filed a lawsuit accusing TikTok of being "highly addictive" to children, as well as harming the safety, mental health, physical development and social life of the very young.
The lawsuit, filed by the Utah attorney general, alleges that TikTok is manipulating younger users to "spend 24 hours a day consuming content," creating a harmful dependency. The platform is allegedly designed to keep users trapped in an endless cycle of content scrolling, which in turn drives advertising interactions and increases the company's profits.
In addition, the lawsuit emphasizes certain features of the platform, such as infinite scrolling, pop-up notifications, popularity metrics such as views and "Likes," as well as an algorithm that favors recommendations and personalized content. These elements, according to the lawsuit, contribute to children being particularly vulnerable to TikTok.
The lawsuit also raises concerns about possible attempts by the Chinese government to spy on U.S. users through TikTok, further exacerbating data security concerns.
Utah authorities demand compensation
Utah state governor Specer Cox has backed the lawsuit, alleging that ByteDance intentionally misleads parents into believing the app is safe for their children.
The lawsuit demands judgment against the platform and seeks to enjoin it from violating Division of Consumer Protection regulations. It also seeks $300,000 in damages, along with other civil penalties in an equivalent amount.
TikTok parental controls
Importantly, however, TikTok has implemented parental control tools on its platform, as well as a break and time limit reminder feature. These features seek to help parents monitor the time their children spend on the app and ensure that they do not overindulge in their content consumption.
Users have the option to enable the "Screen Time" feature, which allows them to monitor their daily activity on the platform. In addition, the "Schedule a break" feature allows users to set regular intervals to step away from the screen and take a breather.
As the legal process unfolds, TikTok continues to be a focus of attention and debate in the field of online child protection.
The resolution of this case will set an important precedent for the regulation and oversight of social networking platforms, especially with regard to their impact on youth.