SALT LAKE CITY – Once again, the state of Utah has sued social media giant TikTok, this time for allegedly allowing young people to be sexually exploited on its online platform.

Gov. Spencer Cox called the new allegations against TikTok “not merely concerning, but incredibly disturbing.”

“We will take all necessary actions to protect (Utah’s children) from TikTok’s egregious behavior,” the governor said in an early June press release announcing the new suit.

“Such disregard for the safety of young users on its platform – much less profiting off their exploitation – cannot and will not be tolerated.”

The newest lawsuit, being brought by Attorney General Sean Reyes on behalf of the Division of Consumer Protection of the Utah Department of Commerce, was filed in the Third Judicial District Court in Salt Lake City on June 3.

It alleges that a live stream feature on the TikTok application – called TikTok LIVE – lets predatory adult users give so-called TikTok currency to young users in exchange for sexual solicitation and exploitation while the social media giant takes a cut of each payment.

In October of 2023, state officials brought suit against TikTok for intentionally designing and deploying addictive features on its platform to hook young users into endless use of its application.

Utah was promptly countersued by the NetChoice trade group, which represents TikTok and other major tech companies, in December of 2023.

In its federal lawsuit, NetChoice argued that, although Utah laws impacting social media that took effect Mar. 1 might be well-intended, they are unconstitutional because they restrict access to public content, compromise data security and undermine parental rights.

In the process of investigating its original lawsuit, however, Utah officials found that the dangers that TikTok poses to children are not limited to its addictive algorithm, but also include an open-door policy for criminals to prey on users, particularly minors, through its TikTok LIVE app.

“Our investigation confirmed TikTok knows of the damage to young victims,” Reyes says, “but feels it makes far too much money to stop.

“There are so many layers of harm in its practices that we cannot wait a day longer to act.”

The most recent Utah complaint alleged that TikTok has skillfully avoided regulatory requirements and prioritized profits over user safety while failing to institute even basic financial controls over its LIVE app, leading to a heightened risk of fraud and criminal activity.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that TikTok’s profiteering doesn’t stop at child sexual exploitation, but also has allowed criminals to freely launder money, host illegal gambling rings, sell drugs and even fund terrorism.

The Utah lawsuit seeks a court ruling to stop TikTok’s illegal practices and require the media giant to forfeit monies it wrongly obtained by profiting from illegal activities on its platform.

“The state of Utah is front and center in this fight against child exploitation,” Reyes adds. “This lawsuit is just one of many ways we are fighting for child safety online.”

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection is one of ten agencies with the Utah Department of Commerce charged with the mission of protecting consumers through education and impartial enforcement of state laws.

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