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Utah sues TikTok for getting children ‘addicted’ to its algorithm

Utah sues TikTok for getting children ‘addicted’ to its algorithm


Utah’s consumer protection division alleges that TikTok misrepresents itself as independent of China and is designed to ‘hook users’ into its endless feed.

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Illustration by Nick Barclay / The Verge

Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection (UDCP) is suing TikTok over allegations that the app’s “addictive nature” harms children and that TikTok deceptively obscures its relationship with ByteDance, its parent company in China. The state’s lawsuit is the latest in a long-and-growing string of bans and legal action from US-based governments and organizations to rein in TikTok’s popularity, generally on espionage fears.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox accused the company of “misleading parents that its app is safe for children” in a press release announcing the lawsuit today. He said the app “illegally baits children into addictive and unhealthy use” with features that encourage young users to scroll endlessly in order to make more advertising money.

The lawsuit alleges that TikTok violates the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act (UCSPA) by making the app addictive to children and profiting from it; misrepresenting things like the safety of its app and fairness of its policies; and claiming that it’s based in the US and not controlled from China by ByteDance.

TikTok is facing challenges like this across the US. Indiana made similar allegations to Utah’s in its own lawsuit against TikTok last year. A Maryland school district sued the company and other tech giants over claimed contributions to students’ “mental health crisis” in June. Montana passed a ban on TikTok in May, which TikTok is now suing to overturn.

Beyond TikTok, Utah also passed a law this year requiring parents to consent before their children can use social media, in a move that’s part of a larger censorship trend in the United States.

The UDCP’s lawsuit demands a jury trial and asks that the judge “preliminarily or permanently enjoin” TikTok from violating the UCSPA and order the company to pay the UDCP’s legal fees for the lawsuit, “restitution and damages well in excess of $300,000,” and another $300,000 in civil penalties.