Arkansas sues TikTok and Meta over child privacy and safety

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The State of Arkansas on Tuesday sued TikTok and Facebook parent Meta, claiming that social media companies mislead consumers about the safety of children on their platforms and the protection of children’s privacy. users.

The state has filed two lawsuits against TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance and a third lawsuit against Meta, which also owns Instagram, accusing the companies of violating the state’s deceptive marketing practices law.

“TikTok is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said one of the lawsuits, filed in state court. “As long as TikTok is allowed to deceive and mislead Arkansas consumers about the risks to their data, those consumers and their privacy are easy prey.”

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Attorney General Tim Griffin, both Republicans, announced the lawsuit as TikTok faces growing questions about the security of its users’ data. FBI and Federal Communications Commission officials have warned that ByteDance may share TikTok user data with China’s authoritarian government.

One of Sanders’ first actions after being sworn in as governor of Arkansas in January was to sign an executive order banning TikTok from state devices.

One of the lawsuits claims that TikTok fails to take appropriate steps to protect minors who use the platform from inappropriate content, including sexual content and content depicting drug or alcohol use. TikTok did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday.

“Over the past decade, we have seen one social media company after another exploit our children for profit and escape government scrutiny,” Sanders said in a statement released by his office. “My administration will not tolerate this failed status quo.”

The lawsuit against Meta accuses the company of manipulating Facebook to maximize the time young people spend on the platform, which it says has helped fuel mental health issues among young people in the state.

Meta on Tuesday outlined steps it has taken to protect teens on its platforms, including age verification technology and technology that finds and removes content related to suicide, self-harm or mental disorders. food.

“These are complex issues, but we will continue to work with parents, experts and regulators such as state attorneys general to develop new tools, features and policies that meet the needs of teens and their families,” said said Antigone Davis, head of security at Meta. said in a statement.

Indiana filed a similar lawsuit against TikTok last year, claiming that the video-sharing platform misleads its users, especially children, about the level of inappropriate content and the information security of users. consumers. In January, the Seattle Public School District also sued the tech giants behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, seeking to hold them accountable for the youth mental health crisis.

Sanders also supports a bill being advanced in the Arkansas Legislature that would require parental permission for anyone under 18 to use a social media site. The proposal, which a Senate panel approved on Tuesday, would require social media sites to verify a user’s age.

Utah last week became the first state to adopt such a requirement, though experts have questioned how such rules could be enforced and whether they could have unintended consequences.

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