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Iowa Sues TikTok for Allegedly Misleading Parents, Evading Parental Controls by Rating App 12+

'TikTok has kept parents in the dark.'

Iowa Sues TikTok for Allegedly Misleading Parents, Evading Parental Controls by Rating App 12+

The state of Iowa has filed a lawsuit against the Chinese social media app TikTok.

The lawsuit alleges that by rating itself 12+ in Apple’s app store, it evades parental controls and misleads parents.

According to the state, this deception violates the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act.

“TikTok knows and intends to evade the parental controls on Apple devices by rating its app ‘12+,’” the complaint states. “If TikTok correctly rated its app, it would receive a ‘17+’ age rating, and parental restrictions on phones would prevent many kids from downloading it.”

According to the attorney general's office, the app recommends inappropriate content to children as young as 13.

Iowa also says that TikTok violates App Store guidelines by claiming harmful content is “infrequent/mild” when it is actually “frequent/intense.”

The complaint also accuses the platform of “misleading, deceptive, and unconscionable” claims made about the app’s Restricted Mode, which is meant to limit inappropriate content.

“TikTok has kept parents in the dark,” Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, a Republican, said in a statement. “It’s time we shine a light on TikTok for exposing young children to graphic materials such as sexual content, self-harm, illegal drug use, and worse.”

“TikTok has sneaked past parental blocks by misrepresenting the severity of its content. But no longer,” Bird continued. “As a mom and prosecutor, I am committed to equipping parents with information to keep their kids safe and to holding TikTok accountable.”

We Are Iowa reports:

Utah, Arkansas and Indiana have filed similar lawsuits, though a judge dismissed Indiana's lawsuit in November. Judges there determined that downloading the free social media app TikTok doesn’t amount to a consumer transaction under its state law.

The U.S. Supreme Court also will be deciding whether state attempts to regulate social media platforms such as Facebook, X and TikTok violate the Constitution.

TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, has ties to the Chinese Communist Party — which has led many on both sides of the aisle to claim that it is a risk to national security. Congress has banned the use of the app on all House-issued mobile devices for this reason.

In 2022, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds banned the app on state-owned devices.

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