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Arkansas sues Meta, TikTok over putting children, personal data at risk

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday introduced three lawsuits aimed at punishing social media platforms over allegations of harming minors. File Photo by Al Drago/UPI
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday introduced three lawsuits aimed at punishing social media platforms over allegations of harming minors. File Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

March 29 (UPI) -- Arkansas has filed a trio of lawsuits against TikTok and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, on accusations that they engage in deceptive business practices that put children and the personal data of residents at risk.

The lawsuits -- one filed against Meta and the other two against foreign-owned TikTok -- were filed in the state Tuesday, all under Arkansas' Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which makes it illegal for companies to engage in false, deceptive business practices.

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"We have to hold big tech companies accountable for pushing addictive platforms on our kids and exposing them to a world of inappropriate, damaging content," Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday during a press conference announcing the three lawsuits.

"These social media companies have claimed for years that their platforms are beneficial, not addictive and private. That's the definition of false, deceptive and unconscionable."

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The lawsuit filed against Meta accuses it of designing the algorithms behind the Facebook social medial platform to exploit human psychology and foster addiction among users, specifically youth, for profit, resulting in "unhealthy and harmful outcomes for children and teens."

Sanders accused Meta of being a driver behind the teen mental health crisis.

"Defendants are liable for the manipulative and addicting features they deploy to hook young users and keep them on the platform and returning to the platform," the lawsuit against Meta states.

"In addition to features such as Instagram filters that encourage unhealthy body image ideals and promotional emails that encourages users to return to their platforms, defendants deluge youth with instant notifications to induce users to return to the platform and re-engage with the platform when a user's activity drops."

A similar lawsuit filed against TikTok accuses it of harming children by having an algorithm that "force-feeds" them mature content, including depictions of sex, nudity, suggestive themes, profanity and alcohol, tobacco and drug consumption.

"Content available and promoted to minors on TikTok can and does influence their behavior, causing significant harm, including to communities in Arkansas," the lawsuit states.

The second lawsuit filed against TikTok concerns fears that data it harvests from its users may fall into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

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The lawsuit states that TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese-company ByteDance, is subject to Chinese laws that mandate cooperation with intelligence agencies in the Asian nation.

"China can use TikTok user data to spy on, blackmail and coerce TikTok users, serve them propaganda, further develop China's artificial intelligence capabilities or for any number of other purposes that serve China's national security and economic interests, at the expense of Arkansas consumers," the lawsuit continues.

The lawsuits against TikTok come amid growing concern over the national security risks potentially posed by the wildly popular social media platform's Chinese ownership.

It also comes as Sanders supports a bill introduced in Arkansas' legislature earlier this month that would require parental consent for those under the age of 18 to join social media platforms.

"This actions are a long time coming," Sanders said Tuesday in a statement. "We have watched over the past decade as one social media company after another has exploited our kids for profit and escaped government oversight. My administration will not tolerate that failed status quo."

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