Georgia joins investigation into TikTok’s effect on children’s health

Georgia joins investigation into TikTok's effect on children's health

In this photo illustration, the TikTok app download page is seen displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is joining a nationwide investigation into the social media app TikTok and its potential harmful effects on children and young adults.

The investigation was announced Wednesday by a number of states led by California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont.

US lawmakers and federal regulators have criticized TikTok, citing practices and computerized content promotion that they say can endanger the physical and mental health of young users. The platform has around 1 billion monthly users and is especially popular with teenagers and young children.

Last month, Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and the facilitation of human trafficking.

“We will always stand up to protect the children of Georgia, and we will not tolerate those who put their health and well-being at risk,” Carr said in a statement. “The use of social media and its harmful effects on young people is a serious issue that must be addressed with safety as the only priority. As TikTok chooses to target our youngest residents with enhanced marketing tactics, we will continue to work with our fellow attorneys general to review all available information and keep our children safe.”

Officials say the investigation will examine whether TikTok puts the public at risk by violating consumer protection laws and will focus on examining how TikTok drives user engagement with the app.

Government officials and child safety advocates argue that TikTok’s computer algorithms that push video content towards users may promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide among young viewers.

Tiktok’s response to the survey

TikTok said it is focusing on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, aren’t available to younger users. The company says it has implemented tools, such as screen time management, to help young people and parents moderate the amount of time children spend on the app and what they see.

“We care deeply about creating an experience that helps protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that state attorneys general are focused on keeping young users safe,” the company said Wednesday. “We look forward to providing information on the many security and privacy protections we have for teens.”

Early last year, after federal regulators ordered TikTok to disclose how its practices affect children and teens, the platform tightened its privacy practices for users under 18.

As its popularity has grown, TikTok has come under a barrage of criticism from state officials, federal regulators, consumer advocates and lawmakers on both sides. Republicans have particularly emphasized the company’s ties to China. TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance.