May 19, 2024

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TikTok Facing Investigation Over Whether It Harms Children

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A bipartisan group of state attorneys general have launched an investigation into TikTok examining whether the social media giant is harming children and young adults through the content on its platform.


California Attorney General Rob Bonta is among the eight state AGs leading the probe, which will look into the physical and mental health harms that TikTok may cause. Among other factors, the investigation will focus on whether the Culver City-based firm designs, operates and promotes its platform to minors in a way that causes or exacerbates those harms, the attorneys general said.

“Our children are growing up in the age of social media—and many feel like they need to measure up to the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens,” Bonta said in a statement. “We know this takes a devastating toll on children’s mental health and well-being. But we don’t know what social media companies knew about these harms and when.”

TikTok—which has eclipsed 1 billion monthly users and become the world’s most popular website—has faced mounting scrutiny over its content moderation practices. A recent Wall Street Journal report found that TikTok’s recommendation algorithm flooded teenage users with videos that promote eating disorders, such as prescribing tips on how to consume only a few hundred calories per day.

The company recently announced steps to combat harmful content on its platform—including new rules aimed at preventing viral hoaxes, shielding the LGBTQ community from harassment and removing videos promoting unhealthy eating habits. For younger users, TikTok has also reduced the time period in which teens can receive push notifications and has launched a curated viewing experience for users under age 13.

In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said the company looks forward to “providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Attorneys general from Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont are also leading the investigation. The probe comes on the heels of a separate investigation by the Texas attorney general, which is focused on human trafficking content on the platform.

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