December 14, 2022

Expert: With TikTok lawsuit, Indiana may set trend for other states to follow

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Dom Caristi, Ball State University professor emeritus of media, said Indiana may be setting a trend with its complaints against TikTok and he expects other states to follow suit. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Dom Caristi, Ball State University professor emeritus of media, said Indiana may be setting a trend with its complaints against TikTok and he expects other states to follow suit.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Last week, Attorney General Todd Rokita filed two lawsuits against social media giant TikTok. One expert said, as the first state to file a complaint against TikTok, Indiana may be setting a trend.

The first lawsuit focuses on whether or not China’s government has access to U.S. data. The second lawsuit alleges the platform is misleading consumers with its age ratings on app stores.

Dom Caristi, Ball State University professor emeritus of media, said it’s unlikely a court will rule in favor of Indiana.

“But I think it’s more likely that Indiana wants to make a statement with a Chinese-owned company,” Caristi said.

The first of the two lawsuits claims that TikTok – which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance – is exposing Hoosiers’ data to China’s government. Caristi said that kind of data becomes more valuable as it becomes aggregated.

“China, or any country, isn’t interested in getting your phone number to send you spam, OK? They’re more interested in being able to put together a profile about you,” he said.

Caristi said that data has the potential for political influence, which is why federal officials are raising concerns. The day after Rokita’s lawsuit was filed, TikTok announced a new Trust and Safety team to work on compliance with protocols developed by the U.S. government.

But a potential positive outcome for that lawsuit might be TikTok adopting blanket reporting requirements – much like tech companies internationally have done for the European Union.

READ MORE: Indiana files two lawsuits against TikTok, becoming first state to do so


 

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The second lawsuit alleges the app’s age rating on stores like Google Play and Apple is misleading and the app is inappropriate for young teens because videos that contain sexual, vulgar and/or drug use content appear on the platform’s For You Page.

“When others are providing content – like Youtube, like TikTok – the platform is not going to be legally responsible for what other people post,” Caristi said.

Caristi also said young teens have had access to inappropriate video content on Youtube for more than a decade, but Indiana has not filed a lawsuit against Google.

He said Indiana may be setting a trend with its complaints against TikTok and Caristi expects other states to follow suit.

“I think you’re going to see some other states probably following – pun intended – following suit,” Caristi said.

Caristi said there are other examples of states taking action on issues the federal government has fallen short on – like privacy and revenge porn.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

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