JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - In an effort to enforce the laws as written and protect children, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey joined 45 states and the District of Columbia in asking a state court to order social media company TikTok, Inc. to fully comply with an ongoing investigation into whether the company violated consumer protection laws.
“As Attorney General, I will enforce the laws as written, which includes holding TikTok accountable for failing to produce documents crucial to our investigation,” said Attorney General Bailey. “If TikTok was aware that its app would negatively impact children’s mental health and still chose to participate in behavior that violated consumers’ rights, that is a violation of law. Our office will use every legal tool at our disposal to protect children and conduct our investigation into these allegations.”
As part of the multistate investigation, the state attorneys general seek to review internal TikTok communications to determine whether the company engaged in deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable conduct that harmed the mental health of TikTok users, particularly children and teens.
Despite the request for these communications falling squarely within the investigative authority of the state attorneys general, the amicus brief asserts that TikTok repeatedly and knowingly failed to preserve relevant information and failed to provide internal communications in a useful format. For example, TikTok employees use an instant messaging service called Lark as their primary mechanism to communicate internally, but TikTok has flouted their duty to preserve communications and provide them in a useable format. They have instead continued to allow employees to send auto-deleting messages over the Lark platform after the start of the investigation and have provided messages to the states in a format that is difficult to use.
Because the use of social media platforms like TikTok plays a significant role in the ongoing youth mental health crisis, it is critical that TikTok produce all relevant internal corporate communications to understand whether the company broke any laws.
There is a wealth of peer-reviewed research showing social media platforms, especially image- and video-based platforms like TikTok, are playing a substantial role in harming youth mental health. For example, in February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings demonstrating a startling increase in challenges to youth mental health, youth experiences of violence, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among teenagers, especially teenage girls. This includes a finding that nearly one-third of teenage girls seriously considered suicide in 2021, a nearly 60% increase from a decade prior. Other peer-reviewed research shows that increased teen social media use is a significant driver of this crisis.
The attorneys general involved in the multistate investigation have a duty to protect their citizens from illegal business practices, and TikTok’s failure to preserve and share relevant internal communications hampers the investigation. The filed amicus brief therefore requests that the court compel TikTok to provide the information sought.
In addition to Attorney General Bailey, attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming join the brief, as well as the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.
Read the amicus brief here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/tik-tok.pdf?sfvrsn=f0bdde74_2