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Tiktoks Troubled Past Banned Sued In Multiple Countries

TikTok's Troubled Past: Banned and Sued in Multiple Countries

Lindokuhle Mkhize

Lindokuhle Mkhize

26 October 20236 min read

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    In a significant legal move, the state of Utah has filed a lawsuit against the popular video-sharing app TikTok, raising concerns about the potentially harmful effects the platform can have on children. 

    This lawsuit echoes the growing global apprehension surrounding TikTok's impact on young users. Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has risen to prominence, captivating millions of users across the United States. The platform's addictive nature and engaging short-form videos have made it highly popular, particularly among younger audiences. However, with this surge in popularity, concerns regarding data privacy, cyberbullying, and inappropriate content targeting children have emerged, prompting legal action.

    Key takeaways

    • Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has filed a lawsuit against TikTok for deceiving children and their parents about its security, inducing compulsive use of the app with potentially detrimental effects on mental health.
    • The lawsuit raises questions about the privacy and data collection practices of social media companies, sparking discussion around increased regulation to protect consumer safety.
    • It aims to protect minors from potentially harmful content such as inaccurate information, depictions of self-harm, etc., setting a precedent for other social media companies' responsibilities towards protecting young users.

    Utah's legal action against TikTok

    Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has accused TikTok of "deceiving children and parents about its security and promoting compulsive app use. This can potentially "harm users' mental health, physical development, and social life." 

    The lawsuit alleges that TikTok employs "powerful algorithms and manipulative design features reminiscent of slot machines to engage young consumers." These challenges demand immediate attention from the industry.

    Research presented during a news conference suggests that individuals spending more than three hours per day on social media are twice as likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. "The lawsuit aims to:

    1. Prevent TikTok from violating the UCSPA in accordance with Utah State laws.
    2. Order TikTok to pay restitution and damages in excess of $300,000.
    3. Order the payment of civil penalties well in excess of $300,000 for TikTok's violations of the UCSPA.
    4. Compensate the state for litigation and investigation costs.

    The outcome of this lawsuit holds significant implications for TikTok, other social media platforms, and the millions of young people who rely on these apps daily. The world is watching closely as the stakes are high.

    1. Size and Growth of Social Media:

    Social media platforms have witnessed exponential growth in recent years, with billions of users worldwide. TikTok, in particular, has experienced tremendous success, boasting over 2 billion downloads globally. This immense user base highlights the significant influence and reach of social media platforms.

    1. Projections for Future Growth:

    Experts predict that the social media landscape will continue to expand in the coming years. With advancements in technology and increased internet access, the user base of these platforms is expected to grow further, offering new opportunities and challenges for regulators.

    1. Average Age of Users:

    Social media platforms attract users of all ages, but it’s crucial to consider the average age of their respective user bases. For instance, TikTok has a large proportion of younger users, with statistics suggesting that approximately 40% of TikTok users are aged between 12 and 18. This demographic has raised concerns about the potential impact of content, privacy issues, and addictive behaviors on vulnerable adolescents..

    The repercussions of TikTok's rise

    TikTok's history in the United States and other countries that have taken legal action against it demonstrates the growing concerns and controversies surrounding the app. Let's take a closer look at some key developments:

    1. United States:

    • In 2020, former President Donald Trump attempted to ban TikTok in the United States, citing national security concerns related to data privacy and China's potential access to user information. However, the ban was challenged in the courts and put on hold.
    • Subsequently, a deal was reached between TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, and American tech giants Oracle and Walmart to address US security concerns and establish TikTok Global, a new U.S.-based company.

    2. India:

    • With over 200 million users, India was TikTok's largest market. However, in June 2020, the Indian government banned TikTok, along with several other Chinese apps, amidst rising tensions between the two countries. The ban was imposed due to concerns related to national security, data privacy, and the app's potential impact on Indian culture. 
    • However, news agency ANI has since reported the ban being lifted, stating, "The Madras High Court lifted the ban on further downloads of the app." TikTok will be available for download on Google Play Store and App Store soon. However, while lifting the ban, the court also said that "the firm would face contempt of court if pornographic material was uploaded to it."

    3. Other Countries:

    • Australia, Japan, and several European countries, including Italy and France, have raised concerns about TikTok's data privacy practices and potential risks to national security.
    • Australia: The Australian government has launched an investigation into TikTok's data handling practices and cyber threat risks. This inquiry aims to assess the potential risks associated with the app and ensure that proper measures are in place to protect user data.
    • European Union: The Data Protection Authorities in European Union member states have also expressed concerns about TikTok's data practices. The Dutch Data Protection Authority, for example, imposed a fine on TikTok for violating privacy laws and failing to provide clear information to users about data collection practices.

    4. Legal Actions:

    • Apart from the US ban attempts, TikTok has faced legal challenges in the form of consumer protection lawsuits. Utah's lawsuit accuses TikTok of breaching consumer protection laws and misleading users about safety.
    • Other countries, such as the Netherlands, have imposed fines on TikTok for violating privacy laws and failing to provide clear information to users about data collection practices.

    Privacy and data collection concerns:

    The Utah lawsuit against TikTok emphasizes the importance of regulating social media platforms to safeguard the mental health and well-being of young users as the complaint states:

    "In 2019, TikTok reported only 596 cases of child-related sexual abuse material, but in 2022, that number had ballooned to 288,125.53. However, even that, though demonstrating a steep increase, severely underreports". 

    TikTok has faced scrutiny for its privacy and data collection practices, raising concerns about user protection. TikTok has faced prior lawsuits, including claims of violating the Federal Wiretap Act and harvesting personal data, as well as promoting harmful challenges. In response, TikTok has agreed to pay settlements and has filed lawsuits challenging bans on the app.

    TikTok's response to the lawsuit

    TikTok has expressed its commitment to keeping its community safe and addressing industry-wide challenges.

    The key representatives for TikTok discussing the lawsuit are Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for the company, and Shou, the Chief Executive Officer of TikTok and its Chinese parent company. (spokesperson at the time the complaint was filed).

    Day of reckoning for social media?

    Utah's lawsuit against TikTok is not the first time social media platforms have faced scrutiny. Previous examples include the Senate's investigation into Facebook for issues like Cambridge Analytica leaks and election rigging. 

    The mounting concerns surrounding social media have sparked a growing movement to regulate the industry as it increases in power and scale. As a result, other social media companies may need to enhance safeguards to protect minors from harmful content and addictive behaviors. Additionally, these platforms may face inspections and legal actions related to their marketing strategies and adherence to consumer protection regulations.

    The Utah lawsuit against TikTok has ignited a crucial conversation about the responsibilities of social media companies in protecting young users' mental health. The case sheds light on the potential adverse effects of these platforms on children and teens and the need for increased regulation and safeguards. 

    As the legal battle unfolds, the outcome could reshape the social media landscape, set new precedents, and inspire change across the industry.


    Why is Utah suing TikTok?

    In addition to charging TikTok of being independent of its parent business, Utah is suing the app for allegedly breaking consumer protection laws, encouraging unhealthy consumption, and misrepresenting safety.

    Who is the girl who sued TikTok for sound?

    Canadian voice actress Beverly Standing filed a lawsuit against TikTok for allegedly utilizing her voice without her consent. She is a well-known voice actor with experience in the US and Canada.

    Why is Indiana suing TikTok?

    Indiana is suing TikTok for allegedly exposing kids to objectionable content and misleading users about China's access to their data. 

    What are the main allegations in Utah's lawsuit against TikTok?

    A complaint has been launched in Utah against TikTok on the grounds that it misleads parents and kids about its security and encourages obsessive use, which may be detrimental to a user's social, familial, mental, and physical development.

    How does TikTok affect users' mental health?

    The competitive atmosphere and comparison-based culture of TikTok can result in negative social media behaviors, poor self-esteem, and feelings of inadequacy, all of which can impact users' mental health.

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    Lindokuhle Mkhize, a skilled creative copywriter and content lead at Trademarkia, brings a wealth of experience in driving innovation and managing teams. With previous success in starting and growing the Innovation and Marketing department at her former creative agency, Lindokuhle boasts expertise in leadership and delivering compelling content. Based in South Africa, Lindokuhle's work focuses on key themes of creativity, effective communication, and strategic marketing.