A group of US prosecutors has launched an investigation into TikTok’s impact on the mental and physical health of children, teens and young adults.
The bipartisan investigation will analyze whether the use of TikTok harms young users and whether or not TikTok was aware of these harms. As part of the investigation, the Attorney General will examine the methods and techniques used by TikTok to increase engagement of young users, including increasing the time spent on the platform and the frequency of engagement with the platform.
Dozens of studies have been conducted over the years showing the harmful effects of social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok on teens and their self-perception. In a study published in September, the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that teens exposed to online risk factors, including cyberbullying, violence, and hate speech, among others, were significantly associated with subsequent serious suicide/self-harm, warnings.
The investigation will help determine whether TikTok violated consumer protection laws and endangered the public, attorneys general said.
“Because children and adolescents are already struggling with anxiety, social pressures and depression, we cannot allow social media to further impact their physical health and mental well-being,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
“Attorneys General have a duty to protect young people and get more information about how companies like TikTok are impacting their daily lives.”
The TikTok investigation is being conducted by a bipartisan coalition of attorney generals from the states of California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont.
The latest investigation adds another to the pile launched by attorneys general to probe Big Tech’s behavior. Aside from a bipartisan investigation into Meta’s plan to launch Instagram Kids, which was shortly followed by the company that paused the project, limited changes have emerged from those investigations.
Even with Meta’s decision to shelve Instagram Kids, that decision was only made after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s leaks came to light.
Governments around the world are increasingly concerned about the adverse mental health impact that social media platforms are having on users. In Australia, the federal government is conducting its own social media inquiry and intends to enact legislation aimed at obliging social media platforms to do more to protect users. The British government is also considering similar legislation.