Nebraska sues TikTok for ‘fueling a youth mental health crisis’

Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers (R) filed a suit against TikTok on Wednesday, accusing the social media giant of being “addictive and harmful to teens and children,” adding that the app is “fueling a youth mental health crisis.”

The suit claims that TikTok’s algorithm and content distribution structure provides minor users with harmful content without proper consumer protection warnings.

“TikTok is fueling a youth mental health crisis in Nebraska, exploiting children and teens,” Hilgers wrote in a statement.

He continued, “TikTok tells parents its platform is safe for kids, but our investigation reveals that nothing could be further from the truth.”

Hilgers claimed that the social media app’s algorithm “has shown kids inappropriate content, ranging from videos that encourage suicidal ideation and fuel depression, drive body image issues, and encourage eating disorders to those that encourage drug use and sexual content wildly inappropriate for young kids.”

“Parents deserve to be fully and truthfully informed so they can help their kids make positive, healthy choices,” he continued. “Our office will not stand by while social media platforms mislead parents while dosing digital poison to our children.”

The lawsuit follows a state investigation into the impacts of TikTok on teens and children, which Hilgers’s office claims the company attempted to evade and did not comply with.

Claims center on TikTok advertising and community guidelines promoting the app as “family-friendly” and “safe” for young users, while in fact being dangerous, the suit reads.

Nebraska’s suit adds to months of significant scrutiny on TikTok, including multiple congressional hearings into its impact on young people and national security risks related to its ownership by a Chinese company.

Early this month, a House panel requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether the social media company violated child protection laws with how it has treated young users’ data.

President Biden also signed a bill last month that requires TikTok parent company ByteDance to sell its U.S. holdings to an American company by next year, or else the app will be barred from the country, citing data protection concerns. TikTok sued the federal government over the law.

TikTok faces a similar investigation from the European Union over the impact of the app on children users and exposure to harmful content.

The company has repeatedly defended itself from child endangerment claims, arguing that it has significant built-in restrictions available for parents to control what their child sees on the platform.

“TikTok has industry-leading safeguards to support teens’ well-being, including age-restricted features, parental controls, an automatic 60-minute time limit for people under 18, and more. We will continue working to address these industry-wide challenges,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

The Nebraska suit follows similar lawsuits filed by the attorneys general of Utah, Indiana and Iowa in the last year.

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