A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general is investigating TikTok to see if the popular short-form video platform’s design, operations, or promotion to young users has a harmful impact on their physical or mental health.
The attorneys general are looking into whether the short-form video app broke any state consumer protection laws.
The investigation is the latest sign that the drive for stronger online safety for children is gaining traction. During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden called for a ban on targeted advertising to children on social media.
At the annual lecture, Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee who disclosed confidential documents showing the company’s research into the impact of its products on teen mental health, was a guest. Her statement in Congress prompted a series of hearings with tech executives on how to better protect children on their platforms, as well as new legislation requiring more stringent safeguards.
“We cannot allow social media to further hurt children and teens’ physical and mental well-being while they already struggle with anxiety, social pressure, and depression,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, one of the coalition’s founders, said in a statement.
According to a press statement from Healey’s office, the AGs will investigate potential injuries to young people who use the app, as well as what TikTok knew about those problems. This will include investigating the methods TikTok employs to promote engagement, time spent in the app, and frequency of use.
In a statement, a TikTok representative stated, “We care strongly about developing an experience that serves to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are concentrating on the safety of younger members.” “We’re excited to share knowledge about the numerous safety and privacy safeguards available to kids.”
Attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont are leading the investigation.
The same committee is also investigating Facebook parent Meta for allegedly marketing Instagram to underage users while being aware of the risks. Many state attorneys general had already pushed the firm to drop plans to build a kids-focused Instagram vertical, which it has yet to fully commit to.