December 9, 2022

Finally: A State Sues TikTok

The Biden administration has been dragging its feet on this pernicious app, and Indiana’s attorney general got sick of waiting around.

Todd Rokita is suing TikTok, and the lesson is clear: Never send a weak-kneed federal government to do a conservative state attorney general’s job.

Filing two lawsuits in a state superior court, Rokita, a former Republican congressman and Indiana’s current attorney general, recognizes the threat posed by the Chinese-owned social media app. He rightly argues that everything from people’s particular interests to their specific facial features is potentially accessible to the communist Chinese government. His lawsuits claim that TikTok and its Beijing-based owner, tech giant ByteDance, is violating the state’s consumer-protection laws by deceiving the public about its operations, about its data security, and about its suitability for young teens. From Rokita’s press release:

The first lawsuit alleges that TikTok has lured children onto the platform through a variety of misleading representations indicating that the app contains only “infrequent/mild” sexual content, profanity, or drug references — when in reality the app is rife with extreme examples of such material. An essential part of TikTok’s business model is presenting the application as safe and appropriate for children ages 13 to 17.

The second lawsuit asserts that TikTok has reams of highly sensitive data and personal information about Indiana consumers and has deceived those consumers to believe that this information is protected from the Chinese government and Communist Party.

TikTok is chock-full of trends and songs that feature sexual content, the Indiana suit charges, but, as The Washington Post reports: “The app’s autocomplete search feature and video-suggestion algorithm mean explicit clips are often recommended to users who may not even search for them. Sexually explicit content is banned by TikTok, but users often change one letter in a word to get around those rules.”

In short: TikTok is a drug, and our young people are hooked on it. How so? The Post continues:

Home to millions of users, viral clips and a culture-shifting algorithm, the platform has captured two-thirds of American teens, a quarter of whom say they’re on the video-sharing app “almost constantly,” a Pew Research study found in August. The app’s unique “For You” algorithm learns a user’s tastes and then feeds video after video, sometimes with an accuracy that stuns users.

As the app has become a cultural phenomenon, U.S. policymakers have raised concerns about privacy and data, children’s online safety and national security. TikTok executives have said the app does not share information with the Chinese government and have attempted to quell fears from members of Congress about national security and transparency.

During his administration, then-President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok if it wasn’t brought under U.S. ownership. But, as The Wall Street Journal reports: “President Biden dropped that after the action was successfully challenged in court. The Biden administration is now negotiating with TikTok over a deal aimed at alleviating national-security concerns.”

Team Biden doesn’t exactly seem to be moving with a sense of urgency, though. If we didn’t know better, we’d say this president was somehow beholden to Xi Jinping and the ChiComs, the lying, thieving, genocidal regime that has long been our nation’s number one geopolitical foe.

Wisconsin Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher, a retired Marine, sounded the alarm anew in August: “Enough is enough. It has been clear to anyone paying attention that TikTok is not only destroying our children’s brains, but also poses an unacceptable threat to our national security. It is long past time to ban its operation in the United States.”

Gallagher cited a report from Forbes that indicated “nearly 300 current TikTok and ByteDance employees were current or former employees of Chinese state media companies.”

And these are the people whom we’ve allowed to commandeer our children’s brains, to dominate their free time. What could go wrong? Well, our kids could be exposed to “videos about hallucinogenic drugs and how to make alcohol taste like candy, to clips about strippers and sexual kinks, including bondage and rape fantasies” — harmless kid stuff like that.

Even the FBI has taken notice: “The Chinese government has shown a willingness to steal Americans’ data on a scale that dwarfs any other,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray, adding in his best Captain Obvious tone that Americans should be very concerned about giving China “that much ability to shape content,” “engage in influence operations,” and “access … people’s devices.”

While the Biden administration seems asleep at the switch, governors across the 50 states are waking up and taking action. Outgoing Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan announced a ban of TikTok from the state’s government devices Tuesday. A day earlier, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, another Republican, issued an executive order banning TikTok from government devices. These two followed South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, who became the nation’s first governor to ban TikTok from state devices, including making it a criminal offense to download the app on a state device.

As our Emmy Griffin wrote last month: “The U.S. should follow through with a ban. Anything less is negligence. The ban would affect 94.1 million U.S.-based TikTok users — 94.1 million Americans who are either blithely or brazenly ignoring the risks to their own safety. If the U.S. does extricate itself from this spyware, it would join countries like India and possibly cleanse the cultural contamination that TikTok has been allowed to spread.”

Indeed. Anything less is negligence. And our children are its victims.

What the hell are we waiting for?

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