Minnesota AG joins national probe into TikTok impact on kids

Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison.  (FOX 9)

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has joined a nationwide investigation into TikTok and its possible harmful effects on the mental health of children and teenager users.

The nationwide probe,  announced Wednesday, is led by officials from a number of states including California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont. Officials plan to investigate if using TikTok is harmful to children and teenagers and if the company is violating state consumer protection laws in promoting its platform to young people.

"My job is to help Minnesotans of all ages live with dignity, safety, and respect. This is why I’ve joined a bipartisan, nationwide investigation into TikTok about its impact on younger users," Attorney General Ellison said in the news release. "While I cannot provide detail about an active investigation, we will look into the harms that using TikTok may cause young users, and what TikTok knew about those harms."  

U.S. lawmakers and federal regulators have criticized TikTok for its computer-driven algorithms, saying it pushes video content that can endanger the physical and mental health of young users. Last month, Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking.

"As children and teens already grapple with issues of anxiety, social pressure, and depression, we cannot allow social media to further harm their physical health and mental wellbeing," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement

Tiktok’s response to investigation

TikTok, which is intended for users 13 and up, offers a number of resources to support families like educational safety videos and parent guides. In 2020, the company introduced a feature called Family Pairing, which allows parents to link their TikTok account to their child’s account and moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see.

TikTok also sought to tackle the issue of bullying on the app last summer by enlisting some of its top animation creators to share ways they spread kindness online.

"We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users," the company said Wednesday. "We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens."

Early last year, after federal regulators ordered TikTok to disclose how its practices affect children and teenagers, the platform tightened its privacy practices for users under 18.

States' TikTok investigation widens scrutiny of popular social media app

FOX TV Digital Team and The Associated Press contributed to this report.