TikTok Under Fire on Multiple Fronts As Child Safety Concerns Join Security Concerns

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on December 15, 2022

TikTok might be banned on all government-owned devices following suspicion over how it handles its data. It is also facing multiple lawsuits and pushback at the state level as people add child safety concerns to the severe security concerns that have been following the app for quite some time.

TikTok sent data to China, which caused significant backlash from US regulators. Oracle, another company with data privacy issues, was then charged with reviewing the video-sharing app’s algorithms, but it has not eased concerns. There were even those who wanted the app to be blocked on US soil, though things have not gone that far yet.

  • Many have spoken about their concerns that the data sent to China will end up in the hands of the Chinese government because of its national security laws.
  • There has been concern about the app and its data practices for years. In 2020, parties called for its ban, and Nebraska banned it on state devices.
  • ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has denied that Beijing has access to US user data.

A delayed national-security deal is evidence of the lack of trust. Originally, the deal between TikTok and the Biden administration was meant to settle by the end of the year, but it has been delayed. The delays are due to growing national security concerns, despite the deal originating as a way to negotiate measures to prevent problems and ease concerns.

Concerns include how TikTok might share information related to its algorithms. There is also a lack of trust, which has grown worse in recent days after issues with content displayed on the platform.

Child safety concerns are building, attributed to harmful content appearing on the app. Moreover, the content seems to be targeted at young users, appearing on their feed within minutes of them joining. Two types of content seen often include self-harm and eating disorder content.

  • Harmful content appeared within 30 minutes of joining, according to a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The study used accounts posing at 13-year-olds, and they would receive the content within 30 minutes and sometimes as soon as three minutes.
  • Recommended videos appeared every 39 seconds after users viewed and liked body image or mental health content.

Content concerns are not new, with eating disorder videos flooding teenage accounts in 2021. Now, videos promoting eating disorders and suicide are appearing all over the place, including videos featuring razor blades and “junkorexia,” a term for anorexic individuals who only eat junk food.

States are cracking down, including Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Texas. They have joined Nebraska in banning the app on government devices, while Indiana has launched two lawsuits against TikTok. The lawsuits focus on data security and its approach to age-appropriate content.

  • While these state-level actions will not impact everyday users, it adds more political pressure at a time when TikTok is already struggling to remain in the US.
  • There has also been a push for Apple and Google to raise the age guidance for users of TikTok, wanting it to be at least 17.

Action at the federal level is also in play, with the US Senate passing a bill to bar all federal employees from using the app on government devices. While it still needs approval from the US House of Representatives and President Biden, there are many voices speaking out in support of the idea.

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.

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