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Fact Check Team: Lawsuits allege TikTok negatively impacts users' well-being

Fact Check Team: Lawsuits allege TikTok negatively impacts users' well-being (Photo by Getty Images){ }
Fact Check Team: Lawsuits allege TikTok negatively impacts users' well-being (Photo by Getty Images)
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TikTok, the popular video-sharing platform, is facing legal trouble over its impact on users’ well-being.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita filed two lawsuits against the platform last month. The first claims it misleads consumers about age-appropriateness.

TikTok has lured children onto the platform through a variety of misleading representations indicating that the app contains only ‘infrequent/mild’ sexual content, profanity, or drug references—when in reality the app is rife with extreme examples of such material,” the press release reads.

The second lawsuit arguesTikTok deceives consumers to believe their data is protected from China.

“TikTok has reams of highly sensitive data and personal information about Indiana consumers and has deceived those consumers to believe that this information is protected from the Chinese government and Communist Party,” it claims.

Rokita is also part of a coalition of state attorneys general that are probing whether the app contributes to mental and physical health issues.

Seattle Public Schools is also suing social media giants like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook for targeting youth children, and a multi-district lawsuit of over 100 combined cases alleges that TikTok and other platforms are addictive and can lead to mental health issues.

Last month, President Biden signed a bill banning TikTok from federally-issued devices, and there’s a growing list of states following suit. Thus far, 31 states have banned the app from government devices and there are five others - including New York, California and Hawaii - with proposed bans. Four additional states - including Florida and Pennsylvania have bans in specific government agencies.

The reasoning behind the bans goes back to the concern over national security threats, like the possibility that the Chinese government can use the platform to collect user data or control what posts are more visible.

Many of the lawsuits TikTok is facing cite negative health impacts and some studies back up the concerns.

A study from Brown University shows aspects of TikTok are key contributors to addiction. The personalized For You stream on the app is curated specifically for each user by artificial intelligence - if you keep scrolling, it will keep showing different videos.

Artificial intelligence shows the users content and uses their reactions, in terms of what the user is liking, commenting on or resharing, to determine other content they might enjoy. They are creating a constant cycle as the technology gathers more information about the user, and it gets more accurate over time.

This feature differentiates TikTok from other platforms, where users have a bit more control over the content they consume.

The study says it appears the aspects of TikTok are greater contributors to addiction than someone’s personality or character. Someone’s experiences and personality traits can play a role, but the app’s design is created to encourage addictive use.

A study from the University of Georgia shows that adolescents who have trouble managing their emotions are at a higher risk of being addicted to social media. The lead author of the study did share a silver lining: adolescents can be taught to regulate their emotions before gaming or social media become addictive. Caregivers and mental health professionals can also step in and provide necessary care and strategies to help.

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