New Utah lawsuit alleges TikTok Live feature puts children at risk

New Utah lawsuit alleges TikTok Live feature puts children at risk

A new Utah lawsuit accuses TikTok of allowing the sexual exploitation of children through its live streaming feature.

TikTok live allows users to post live videos to the platform, where they can interact with viewers and respond to comments in real time. TikTok also allows viewers to send financial “gifts” — often represented by colorful emojis — to users conducting live streams. TikTok does not allow users under the age of 18 to host live streams.

But the lawsuit, filed by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes in state court in Utah, alleges that TikTok Live operates “like a virtual strip club” where children may be encouraged by adults to engage in “prohibited acts” on camera in exchange for for payment from other users. It also claims that TikTok lacks sufficient age verification and enforcement measures to ensure the app is safe to use.

TikTok has known since before December 2023 that there were “pervasive issues with the sexual content of transactions occurring during LIVE sessions, particularly involving children, through user complaints and internal security reports,” the complaint, filed Monday in Utah district court, said. state.

TikTok spokesman Michael Hughes said in a statement that the platform has “industry-leading policies and measures to help protect the safety and well-being of teens.” Creators must be at least 18 years old before they can go LIVE and their account must meet follower requirements. We immediately revoke access to features if we find an account that does not meet our age requirements.”

Monday’s lawsuit is the second filed by the Utah attorney general against TikTok for allegedly putting children at risk. In a separate lawsuit last year, Utah accused the app of harming the mental health of young users, mirroring similar claims from Arkansas and New York City against TikTok and other social media platforms. TikTok has repeatedly rejected claims that it is harmful to children’s well-being, saying it supports young users with various tools such as automatic time limits.

It also comes as TikTok faces a potential threat in the United States after President Joe Biden signed legislation requiring the Chinese-owned app to be sold to a new company or banned from US app stores. TikTok has sued to block the law, claiming it violates the First Amendment.

The new Utah lawsuit, which has been heavily redacted, alleges that TikTok was aware of abuse of its live feature but failed to take adequate steps to address the issue.

“In September 2022 … an investigator found that ‘within minutes of browsing the [LIVE] feed they were shown underage girls providing sexually indecent content in exchange for money and boys using filters to pose as girls to receiving Gifts,” the complaint said.

The lawsuit also alleges that children may be manipulated into sending monetary prizes to other users on the live feature, with the promise of “likes, shoutouts, merchandise or interaction” from the live stream host.

Utah’s attorney general is seeking a jury trial for the case.

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