Utah’s Legal Battle Against TikTok: Unveiling the Alarming Allegations

Newly released documents from Utah’s lawsuit against TikTok have brought to light startling allegations that shed light on the app’s impact on teenagers’ mental health. The lawsuit also includes claims that TikTok sends notifications to teens during the night, affecting their sleep patterns. Here’s a closer look at the key revelations from these documents.

The documents released as part of Utah’s lawsuit against TikTok allege that the company was aware that its app had habit-forming qualities that could harm the mental health of teenagers. These allegations are based on TikTok’s purported knowledge of the app’s impact on users.

One of the concerning claims in the lawsuit is that TikTok sends notifications to teenagers during the night, disrupting their sleep schedules. This interference with sleep patterns is seen as a significant issue affecting young users.

App’s Popularity Among Children

The lawsuit highlights the app’s popularity among children, asserting that nearly a quarter of all children using TikTok spend the equivalent of half of their school day on the app daily. This statistic underscores the significant influence TikTok has on the lives of young users.

Utah’s Attorney General’s Office filed the lawsuit on October 10, 2023, on behalf of the state’s Division of Consumer Protection. Initially, the state was not allowed to detail its allegations fully. However, the recent release of documents provides more insight into the case.

TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek previously stated that TikTok has industry-leading safeguards for young people, including a 60-minute time limit for users under 18 and parental controls for teen accounts. The company is committed to addressing challenges related to the safety of young users.

Utah Attorney General’s Statement

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes expressed the significance of the released documents in the lawsuit, emphasizing that they shed light on the most serious allegations against TikTok. He stated that the state’s investigation aims to put an end to the harms faced by youth on social media platforms.

The lawsuit alleges that TikTok’s data reveals that children aged 13 to 17 check the app approximately 17 times a day and spend an average of two hours on it daily. Furthermore, more than 20% of children are active on TikTok late at night, which impacts their sleep.

Negative Mental Health Impact

Concerns about the negative mental health effects of TikTok usage are also raised in the lawsuit. It alleges that the app may contribute to issues such as loss of analytical skills, memory formation, empathy, and increased anxiety, particularly among young users.

The suit provides insights into TikTok’s recommendation function, known as the “Recommendation Engine.” It alleges that this feature creates an attachment to the app by predicting what users will watch and improving these predictions continuously.

The lawsuit accuses TikTok of using coercive design tactics such as infinite scroll, constant notifications, and the “slot machine” effect to amplify compulsive, repeated app usage.

TikTok’s use of push notifications is another point of contention in the lawsuit. It alleges that TikTok sends notifications to users’ phones, encouraging them to engage with the app even during school and sleep hours, potentially interfering with sleep.

The lawsuit describes problems with video moderation on TikTok. It claims that both automated tools and human moderators fail to effectively prevent harmful videos from being published on the app. These issues are particularly concerning when it comes to minor safety.

The suit alleges that TikTok’s moderators were not adequately trained on the platform’s policies and guidelines. It further claims that moderators review only 0.25% of user comments, despite a significant portion of users engaging through comments rather than videos.

The lawsuit also highlights the connection between ByteDance and TikTok, alleging that ByteDance makes decisions about all aspects of TikTok, including budget, document storage, and handling media criticism.

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These revelations from the lawsuit provide a closer look at the allegations against TikTok and the potential impact on its young users. The legal battle is ongoing, and the outcome will likely have implications for social media platforms and their responsibility to protect children and teenagers using their services.

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