Indiana has filed two lawsuits against the popular video-sharing platform TikTok for breaching the state’s consumer protection laws.
Attorney General Todd Rokita alleged on Wednesday, December 7, that TikTok hooked young users with algorithms that expose them to inappropriate content, which included alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; sexual content, nudity, and suggestive themes; and intense profanity.
TikTok also allegedly misled young users with false age ratings of 12 and above on the Apple and Google app stores. The lawsuit also cited research that found links between the platform and mental disorders among teenagers.
The lawsuit chides, “TikTok is Joe Camel on steroids.”
In a separate complaint, Indiana believed TikTok’s parent company ByteDance had been obscure about the Chinese government’s ability to access its user data. This raised concerns that China could abuse the information to spy on, blackmail, and intimidate users.
According to the New York Times, TikTok makes it known in Europe that users outside of Europe, including those in China, have access to user data. The attorney general stated there are still questions regarding TikTok’s past data and engineering resource exchange with ByteDance.
TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, used to argue that data from U.S. users is managed on servers controlled by the U.S.-based cloud computing company Oracle. However, Rokita said China still has laws that can force out data from an American affiliate.
The complaint said, “If the Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party want access to TikTok’s U.S. user data, they can get it.” It further called the risks “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Both lawsuits allege that TikTok is deceiving and misleading consumers about its operations while violating state consumer protection laws. Indiana is asking for an injunction against the app’s current practices and is also seeking fines of up to $5,000 per violation.