The two lawsuits filed by Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office focus on China’s access to user data and inappropriate videos for children.
The first lawsuit claims that TikTok – a video sharing platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance – “routinely exposes Indiana consumers’ data, without their knowledge” to the Chinese government.
Last month, the FBI said it has “national security concerns” about the platform.
NPR reported Chinese national security laws can compel foreign and domestic firms operating within the country to share their data with the government upon request. There are concerns about China's ruling Communist Party using this broad authority to gather sensitive intellectual property and potentially using the platform to influence American users.
TikTok has said in the past U.S. consumer data is not subject to Chinese law. But in July, it acknowledged that non-U.S. employees had access to U.S. consumer data.
Indiana’s second lawsuit alleges the app’s age rating on stores like Google Play and Apple is misleading because videos that contain sexual, vulgar and/or drug use content appear on the platform’s For You Page. The complaint called TikTok “a Chinese Trojan Horse.”
For example, an affidavit filed by the AG’s office includes what the platform’s algorithm sends to a user account set up as a 13-year-old. The court document said typing “ki” into the app’s search bar autocompleted to “kintiktok,” a tag popularized among users discussing sexual kinks. With the app’s “restricted mode” on – which is designed to limit the content seen by younger users – the affidavit said after typing “alc” the search bar suggested “alc for teens.”
The attorney general’s office is seeking monetary penalties in the complaint filed in the Allen County Superior Court. And it’s also asking for a court to order TikTok to stop marketing itself as an app appropriate for young teenagers and to halt its claims about how it handles data.
Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.