State AGs demand TikTok comply with US consumer protection investigations

FILE PHOTO: A person holds a smartphone as Tik Tok logo is displayed behind in this picture illustration

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A group of 45 state attorneys general in the United States on Monday demanded Chinese-owned social media app TikTok produce subpoenaed materials sought in an ongoing nationwide consumer protection investigation.

The states are seeking to review internal TikTok communications to determine whether the company engaged in deceptive conduct that harmed mental health of TikTok users, particularly children and teens, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

On Monday the states urged a Tennessee state court to compel TikTok answer requests for information.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the petition alleges TikTok has failed to preserve some potentially relevant evidence, in the form of internal employee chat messages “and is hampering the investigation of Tennessee and other states across the country, including California.”

TikTok did not immediately comment.

In March 2022, eight states including California and Massachusetts, said they had launched a bipartisan, nationwide probe of TikTok, focusing on whether the popular video-sharing app causes physical or mental health harm to young people.

Last week, TikTok said it was developing a tool that will allow parents to prevent their teens from viewing content containing certain words or hashtags on the short-form video app, as the embattled company looks to shore up its public image.

TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, is facing renewed scrutiny worldwide over its proximity to the Chinese government and protection of user data.

The app, wildly popular among younger users, has been banned from government-owned phones in the U.S., Canada and other countries due to security concerns. Last week, a U.S. House of Representatives committee voted to give President Joe Biden new powers to ban TikTok.

Like other social media apps, TikTok has also faced criticism for not doing enough to shield teens from inappropriate content.

Parents will now also be able to set custom time limits for their teens’ TikTok usage depending on the day of the week, the company said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson,Editing by Franklin Paul and Marguerita Choy)