Attorney Generals investigating TikTok

Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced that New Jersey is participating in a multistate investigation into whether the social media platform TikTok is violating state consumer protection laws.

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general recently announced an investigation into the social media platform, focused on whether the company is designing and promoting its platform in a way that harms the physical and mental health of children and teens.

The probe, announced by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, will examine whether the company’s practices violated state consumer protection laws and put the public at risk. The same attorneys general are leading a similar probe into Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook.

“As children and teens already grapple with issues of anxiety, social pressure, and depression, we cannot allow social media to further harm their physical health and mental wellbeing,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is leading the investigation with attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and Vermont.

“State attorneys general have an imperative to protect young people and seek more information about how companies like TikTok are influencing their daily lives,” said Healey.

“Many parents and child advocates are rightfully concerned about the impact of social media usage on young people’s safety and wellbeing,” said Platkin. “If social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are violating our laws and exposing young users to psychological and physical harms, we will hold them accountable.”

Among other things, the investigation is centered on techniques employed by TikTok to increase both the frequency and duration of engagement by young users – children, teenagers and young adults – and on the potential harms that may result from such engagement.

The investigation will also explore what TikTok knows about such harms.

“Failing to protect the mental health of children is a serious allegation,” said New Jersey Consumer Affairs Director Sean P. Neafsey.  “We will investigate and hold accountable any company that fails to curb the known harmful effects of a product.”

In November 2021, New Jersey announced that the same group of states is leading an investigation into Meta Platforms, Inc. (f/k/a Facebook) to address whether the social media platform Instagram is violating state consumer protection laws and putting children, teenagers and young adults at risk.

As highlighted in a May 2021 letter from 44 Attorneys General urging Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13, emerging research suggests a nexus between increased time spent online by young persons – particularly on social media platforms – and such ill effects as depression, anxiety, isolation, body image issues, cyber-bullying, eating disorders, and sleeplessness, among others.

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