The lawsuit, filed in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court, alleges the Chinese-owned company “illegally baits children into addictive and unhealthy use.” Both Utah Governor Spencer Cox and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said they hope the lawsuit can force a change in TikTok’s “destructive behavior.”
During a press conference, Reyes claimed TikTok’s algorithm intentionally creates an addiction that “unconscionably” targets children with features that spoon-feeds them endless highly curated content that they struggle to put down. He likened the content to a “slot machine” that hooks kids and does not let them go.
Reyes said TikTok’s algorithm continuously “learns to better manipulate” kids to stay on the app and return as often as possible.
“Most adults can’t resist this,” said Reyes. “Our kids stand no chance.”
Cox said the State of Utah will no longer stand and watch as social media companies fail to take “adequate meaningful action” to protect children. He vowed Utah will be successful in holding social media companies accountable “by any means necessary.”
“We will look back at this and deeply regret we didn’t do this sooner,” said Cox. “It’s one of my regrets we didn’t do this four or five years ago. The second best time to do this is today, and that’s why we filed today.”
TikTok responded to ABC4’s request for comment saying it has safeguards to tackle what it refers to as “industry-wide challenges.”
“TikTok has industry-leading safeguards for young people, including an automatic 60-minute time limit for users under 18 and parental controls for teen accounts. We will continue to work to keep our community safe by tackling industry-wide challenges,” TikTok representatives said.
Reyes said money isn’t the priority in the lawsuit as the State’s main focus is protecting children from the harms of social media. He said he hopes the lawsuit can bring about meaningful change to TikTok’s practices first and foremost. Any fines and penalties awarded to the State should they win the lawsuit, Reyes said will go to the education, mitigation and reparation for damages to Utah’s youth.
Both Reyes and Cox confirmed their investigation into social media has not stopped at TikTok. Without going into names, the State of Utah is continuing its investigation into other social media platforms saying this lawsuit “sends a message of warning” to other platforms.
“I’m tired of our kids losing their innocence and even their lives addicted to the dark side of social media,” said Reyes. “TikTok will only change if put at legal risk – and ‘at risk’ is where they have left our youth in exchange for profit and greed.”
See below to see the lawsuit: