Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of at least eight state attorneys general announced an investigation into how the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok might pose threats to younger users.
Massachusetts, Nevada, and California are leading the coalition of states in the probe, which will examine how the app could be causing physical and mental harm for teenagers and young adults and is similar to a bipartisan investigation that was launched earlier this year into Meta, Facebook’s parent company, The New York Times reports.
TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance that is closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party, has received its fair share of controversy over its ties to the authoritarian regime and even concerns that it is collecting children’s biometric data.
When he was still in office, President Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok over its ties to the CCP, and more recently, child safety advocates have raised concerns that the platform harmfully glamorizes gender transitions.
However, the attorneys general probe targets concerns shared by politicians on both sides of the aisle that content shared on TikTok might affect the mental well-being of teenagers and young adults based on the content they view.
“As children and teens already grapple 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 explained in a statement. “State attorneys general have an imperative to protect young people and seek more information about how companies like TikTok are influencing their daily lives.”
The Times notes that “The issue of online child safety has taken center stage in Washington, and social media companies have come under intense scrutiny over their potential harms to children and teens. Leaked internal documents from a Facebook whistle-blower last year revealed the company had found that some teenage users of Instagram felt worse about themselves and their body images after using the app.”
TikTok, for its part, said in a statement that it has been working towards ensuring children and young teens are protected from harmful content.
“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said.
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