Science, Technology, and Social Media

Nearly Every State AG Joins Legal Battle To Force TikTok To Hand Over Internal Docs, Messages

Forty-six attorneys general joined Tennessee in requesting that a state court force TikTok to comply with an ongoing multistate investigation into the platform’s impact on children.

Following TikTok’s failure to comply with a Request for Information (RFI) last week, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti filed a motion Monday to require the Chinese-owned social media company to preserve documents and internal messages, his office announced. Colorado and 45 other states also filed an amicus brief Monday in support of Skrmetti’s motion, arguing that TikTok’s failure to respond impedes “the State’s ability to protect their citizens.”

TikTok recently confirmed it has not disabled a feature on its internal communications platform that allows the automatic deletion of messages within seven days, according to the attorney general’s office.

“We are asking the court to order TikTok to preserve and produce evidence for our investigation into social media’s impact on children’s mental health,” Skrmetti said in a statement. “In light of the urgent importance of this issue, TikTok’s obstruction is unconscionable. If TikTok continues to flout the law, the state attorneys general have the tools to respond accordingly.”

Last year, a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general launched an investigation into TikTok to determine whether it violates consumer protection laws by promoting its platform to children, whose physical and mental health are allegedly negatively impacted by using the app.

“The States have good reason to believe that TikTok’s unfair and deceptive conduct has fueled an ongoing crisis in the mental health of children and teens, and they have invested substantial resources into a multistate investigation to determine the scope of that conduct,” the state’s amicus brief says.

“We know that social media is taking a devastating toll on young people’s mental health and well-being, and through our investigation we are getting a clearer sense of TikTok’s role,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement. “TikTok cannot evade accountability — and today we are asking the court to order TikTok to cooperate with our investigation. Our children are hurting and we have no time to waste in our efforts to determine if TikTok is violating the law in promoting its platform to young Californians.”

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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