Iowa sues TikTok alleging parents misled about inappropriate content

By Nate Raymond and David Shepardson

(Reuters) -Iowa’s attorney general on Wednesday sued TikTok, accusing the video-based social media platform of misleading parents about their children’s access to inappropriate content on the company’s app.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird in a lawsuit filed in a state court in Polk County accused TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance of lying about the prevalence on its platform of content including drugs, nudity, alcohol and profanity.

“TikTok has kept parents in the dark,” Bird, a Republican, said. “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.”

Alleging consumer fraud, Iowa is seeking financial penalties and an order barring ByteDance-owned TikTok from engaging in deceptive and unfair conduct.

TikTok said it “has industry leading safeguards in place for young people, including parental controls and time limits for those under 18. We are committed to tackling industry wide challenges and will continue to prioritize community safety.”

It was the latest lawsuit by a U.S. state against TikTok, which along with other social media companies faces pressure from regulators globally to protect children from harmful content.

States including Arkansas and Utah have filed similar cases. A judge in Indiana in November dismissed a lawsuit against TikTok by that state’s attorney general. Other states are investigating.

On Jan. 2, Montana said it was appealing a decision by a U.S. judge in November to block Montana’s first-of-its kind state ban on use of TikTok.

Montana’s ban had been set to take effect Jan. 1 but U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on Nov. 30 issued a preliminary injunction to block the ban, saying Montana’s law “violates the Constitution in more ways than one” and “oversteps state power.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will be among the social media CEOs testifying on Jan. 31 before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on online child sexual exploitation.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and DAvid Shepardson in WashingtonEditing by David Gregorio)