TikTok’s effect on teens will be investigated by state prosecutors – TechCrunch

A group of state attorneys general today announced they will investigate TikTok’s link to negative mental and physical health outcomes in children and teens.

This investigation will analyze how TikTok may harm young users and whether or not TikTok knew about this harm in advance. The Attorneys General’s bipartisan group will look at TikTok’s methods of boosting engagement among younger users and how TikTok encourages users to spend more time on the platform. This research will help lawyers determine whether TikTok violated national consumer protection laws and put the public at risk.

“While children and adolescents are already struggling with issues of anxiety, social pressure and depression, we cannot allow social media to further harm their physical health and mental well-being,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a news release. “State attorneys general have an imperative to protect young people and seek more information about how companies like TikTok impact their daily lives.”

These actions aren’t uncommon, but they usually don’t bring much change in big tech. Last year, however, a similar coalition of 44 attorneys, also co-led by Attorney General Healey, succeeded in urging Meta to suspend plans to create Instagram Kids. However, this decision probably had to do more with leaks from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The influence of social media on children’s mental health is on the minds of government officials. President Joe Biden even mentioned social media in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

“We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they conduct on our children for profit,” the president said in his national address. “It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, to ban targeted advertising to children, to demand that tech companies stop collecting personal data about our children.” Frances Haugen was in attendance as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s guest of honor — she even got personal recognition in Biden’s speech.

The TikTok investigation is being led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont, along with other prosecutors across the country.

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