DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa on Wednesday became the latest state to sue TikTok over claims that the social media company deceives consumers over the amount of “inappropriate content” that children can access via the platform.
TikTok claims an age rating of 12 and older in app stores, which is misrepresentative because of the “frequent and intense” mature and sexual content, Iowa claims in the lawsuit against TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
“TikTok has sneaked past parental blocks by misrepresenting the severity of its content,” Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird said in a statement.
Utah, Arkansas and Indiana have filed similar lawsuits, though a judge dismissed Indiana’s lawsuit in November. Judges there determined that downloading the free social media app TikTok doesn’t amount to a consumer transaction under its state law.
The U.S. Supreme Court also will be deciding whether state attempts to regulate social media platforms such as Facebook, X and TikTok violate the Constitution.
Late in 2022, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a ban on the use of TikTok on state-owned devices, as many have done, out of concerns for the security risk connected to its Chinese ownership.
Reynolds also proposed this year that the Republican-led Legislature adopt a new law that would require 18 and older age verification for pornography websites to reduce teens’ access to the content, though social media websites, along with news websites and search engines, would be exempted.
Bird’s lawsuit seeks to force TikTok to correct its statements, as well as financial civil penalties for the harm caused to Iowa consumers.
A TikTok spokesperson said the company has “safeguards in place for young people, including parental controls and time limits for those under 18” and is committed to addressing what it described as “industry wide challenges.”