Fifteen Republican state attorneys general sent letters to the CEOs of Apple and Google on Wednesday demanding they increase their age ratings for the TikTok app.
State governments have increasingly taken aim at the video-hosting platform for its ties to Beijing and the mature content on it. The letters argue that the app’s “Teen” rating in the Google Play Store and “12+” rating in the Apple App Store are deceptively low.
“We’ve known for a long time how TikTok acts as a Chinese Trojan horse, feeding harmful and adult content to children,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R) said in a statement. “It exposes kids to harmful content that promotes drugs and alcohol use, glorifies eating disorders and encourages illegal and dangerous ‘challenges,’ whether they are searching for it or not. Drug cartels have even used it to recruit teenagers to join them.”
Knudsen’s letter was joined by GOP attorneys general in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) filed a lawsuit against TikTok last week arguing its age ratings violated the state’s consumer protection laws against deception, and he and the other officials in the new letters threaten potential legal action if Google and Apple do not change the ratings.
TikTok boasts tens of millions of users and is particularly popular among young people.
“Parents are the first line of defense, but their job is being made more difficult by ratings that misrepresent the true content found on the platform,” Knudsen said. “It’s past time for Apple and Google to do their part in helping parents keep their kids safe online and increase their TikTok ratings.”
The Hill has reached out to Apple, Google and TikTok for comment.
Multiple state governments in recent days have moved to ban TikTok from state devices, in part because of concerns over data privacy on the platform.
Lawmakers and national security officials have raised alarm at TikTok’s Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance, with some suggesting user data is not protected from being accessed by the Chinese Communist Party.
The Biden administration is negotiating with TikTok about a security deal for the platform’s continued use, while a bipartisan group of lawmakers earlier this week introduced a bill that would ban TikTok in the U.S.