Utah is another American state to file a lawsuit against the TikTok virtual platform.
The authorities of the specified region accuse the aforementioned social network, designed to create and publish videos and online broadcasts, of involvement in deceiving users about the degree of interaction with the parent company ByteDance, based in the Chinese capital Beijing. According to the state leadership, the virtual platform, declaring its absolute security, deliberately and knowingly lied.
For a social network where users create and watch videos, this lawsuit is not the first such proceeding in the United States. Similar claims against the virtual platform, which is part of the ByteDance ownership structure, were made in Indiana and Arkansas. Montana has taken a radical decision on the issue of measures concerning TikTok, banning the social network on the territory of this region.
The virtual platform faces large-scale opposition in the United States. A kind of non-acceptance of the social network has a nationwide character and is not a process that exists exclusively in the format of individual regional legal initiatives. The issue of banning TikTok was discussed in Washington in the status of a potential measure that applies to the whole country. At a certain stage, this activity was suspended. According to experts, in this case, there is an example of a higher level of activity in the regional political environment against the background of difficulties with the adoption of bills in conditions of not the highest level of bipartisan unity in Congress.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox, reporting on the lawsuit against TikTok last Tuesday, October 10, mentioned research on the impact of social networks on the consciousness, behavior, and psychological state of adolescents. In this context, the head of the region stated that companies that create and ensure the functioning of virtual platforms filled with media content should be held responsible for the harm caused.
In a complaint filed by Utah, state Attorney General Sean Reyes stated that TikTok committed violations of the local consumer protection law in several ways. According to him, the social network is involved in marketing practices that are addictive to a product with features aimed at performing actions to manipulate children. The prosecutor also stated that the virtual platform was lying, claiming that a safe environment for minors was created on the part of the digital space controlled by it. In this case, according to Sean Reyes, there is a distortion of information about security. Separately, the prosecutor noted that the social network deceived users about its interaction with the parent company, which, he believes, is more substantial and large-scale than TikTok claims.
The fact of the social network’s entry into the ByteDance ownership structure is actually the main claim of American government officials. In this case, concerns are related to the fact that Beijing may oblige Chinese firms to transfer internal information to the authorities, motivating such decisions with national security considerations.
Also, the American lawsuits against TikTok contain narratives that relate to social networks as a conditional media phenomenon that affects the semantic components of the worldview and forms the concepts of behavior, in general. At the same time, the Utah lawsuit pays special attention to the vertical swipe function on a virtual platform owned by ByteDance. In this case, it is argued that this technological solution can be compared to a slot machine that forces users to return for the sake of receiving certain emotions.
Utah is a state demonstrating a high level of activity as part of efforts to protect local residents from what, according to the current leadership of the region, is the harmful impact of social networks. This year, Spencer Cox signed two laws establishing restrictions in the Internet environment in order to ensure the safety of children. These decisions provide for a limitation of the time during which minors can access social networks. The laws also establish a procedure for confirming the age for account registration and provide parents with the opportunity to have access to children’s personal Internet pages, including correspondence.
Privacy and LGBTQ+ rights advocates said that the decisions of the Utah leadership could have large-scale unpleasant consequences, since they provide, according to them, aggressive methods of checking the age of all users. Also, according to supporters of this position regarding the new laws of the said state, access to children’s accounts can aggravate the problematic situation in families where parenting based on methods of abuse of minors is practiced.