TikTok, the popular social media app, is facing legal trouble as the state of Iowa sues the company over allegations of exposing young users to inappropriate content. In a lawsuit filed by Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, TikTok is accused of lying to parents about the presence of sexual content, drugs, alcohol, profanity, and other explicit material on its platform. The lawsuit claims that TikTok made this content “easily accessible” to young users while maintaining an inaccurate “12+” age rating on the Apple App Store.

According to the lawsuit, a “12+” rating on the App Store indicates the presence of only “infrequent/mild” sexual content, profanity, crude humor, suggestive themes, and references to alcohol, tobacco, or drug use. However, the state of Iowa argues that TikTok’s content does not align with this description and suggests that if accurately rated, it should receive a “17+” label instead. The lawsuit further claims that TikTok’s “Teen” ratings on the Google Play Store and Microsoft Store are also inaccurate.

Iowa Attorney General Bird asserts that TikTok has kept parents unaware of the extent of explicit content available on the platform, exposing young children to graphic materials such as sexual content, self-harm, illegal drug use, and more. The state’s investigation found that even users as young as 13 years old can easily find recipes for alcoholic drinks, advice about using marijuana, music with profane lyrics, and videos promoting eating disorders, suicide, and self-harm.

The lawsuit also questions the efficacy of TikTok’s Restricted Mode, which is supposed to limit content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Iowa claims that the feature does not work as intended when enabled, further contributing to the exposure of young users to inappropriate material.

Seeking to hold TikTok accountable for its actions, Iowa is pursuing a preliminary and permanent injunction under Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act. The state wants to prevent TikTok from making misleading statements about the presence of inappropriate content on its platform. In addition to the injunction, Iowa is seeking civil penalties, disgorgement, and other fees from the company.

TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek responded to the allegations, stating that the company has industry-leading safeguards in place for young people, including parental controls and time limits for users under 18. The statement also highlights TikTok’s commitment to prioritizing community safety and addressing industry-wide challenges.

This is not the first time that TikTok has faced such allegations. In 2022, Indiana filed a lawsuit against TikTok, although it was eventually dismissed. The lawsuit claimed that TikTok misled parents by showing sexual and drug-related content to minors. The company is currently facing several other lawsuits, including one from Utah that alleges TikTok makes children addicted to the app. Additionally, TikTok is facing uncertainty regarding the legality of states blocking young users from signing up without parental permission.

TikTok’s alleged exposure of young users to inappropriate content has resulted in legal action by the state of Iowa. The company’s inaccurate age rating, misleading parents, and ineffective content restrictions have become the focal points of the lawsuit. As the legal battle unfolds, TikTok must address these accusations and work towards implementing more effective safety measures to protect its young user base.

Tech

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