Utah sues TikTok, alleging negative mental-health impacts on children

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On Tuesday, the state of Utah announced that it is suing TikTok, claiming the social media platform “baits children into addictive and unhealthy use.”

Gov. Spencer Cox stated in a news conference that the platform encourages children to stay online for hours at a time.

Recent research indicates that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are twice as likely to experience poor mental health outcomes, such as depression and anxiety.  “We will not stand by while these companies fail to take adequate, meaningful action to protect our children,” Cox said. “We are committed to holding social media companies accountable by any means necessary.”

TikTok responded to the lawsuit, stating it has safeguards in place to prevent excessive usage. Last year, Cox issued an order prohibiting state employees from downloading or using the TikTok app on any state-owned devices, citing security concerns.

Sean Reyes, the Attorney General, said the lawsuit stems from what he believes to be TikTok’s violations of multiple provisions within Utah’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. He described the harm caused by social media as “pervasive,” noting that nearly all adolescents engage with social media. Reyes argued that the app’s algorithm “intentionally fosters” addictive behaviors in children.  “TikTok designed these features to resemble a relentless slot machine that captures kids’ attention and refuses to release it,” Reyes said. “Furthermore, TikTok has programmed its computer system to continuously refine its methods to more effectively manipulate our children.”

Reyes claimed that TikTok has misled parents, asserting that the social media behemoth has “created a false sense of security” by endorsing the safety guidelines and provisions it implements. He believes the only way for TikTok to amend its practices is to face legal consequences.