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US state sues TikTok for misleading parents about harmful content available to kids

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Shillong, January 19: The US state of Iowa has sued Chinese short-video making platform TikTok, alleging that it is misleading parents about the kinds of content available to children.

The lawsuit from Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird said the TikTok app contains “frequent and intense sexual content and nudity, profanity and crude humour, mature and suggestive themes, and alcohol, tobacco, and drug use and references”.

“TikTok knows and intends to evade the parental controls on Apple devices by rating its app ’12+’. If TikTok correctly rated its app, it would receive a ’17+’ age rating, and parental restrictions on phones would prevent many kids from downloading it,” the lawsuit alleged.

The state of Iowa is seeking an injunction under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act to force TikTok to end “its deceptive, misleading, false and unfair statements and conduct” related to the content on its platform.

The lawsuit said that TikTok continues to violate its App Store representations because content in every category TikTok claims to be “infrequent/mild” is in fact “frequent/intense.” Iowa’s own investigation revealed that users who register to use the TikTok app as 13 years old can readily find recipes for “jungle juice” and highly alcoholic drinks, including versions meant to mask the flavour of alcohol and women dancing provocatively in thong bikinis, including in close-up butt and crotch shots.

They are also exposed to advice and encouragement about using marijuana, vaping devices, and hallucinogenic mushrooms; videos filmed inside schools set to music with extremely profane lyrics and explicit subject matter; and videos promoting eating disorders, suicide, and self-harm.

“Not only is this content available on the TikTok app, but TikTok’s algorithm recommends it to 13-year-old users,” said the lawsuit.

The state is also seeking civil penalties, disgorgement, and other costs and fees permitted by the Act in light of TikTok’s deceptive, misleading, and unfair conduct and misrepresentations, “which have harmed and continue to harm Iowa consumers”. (IANS)

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