A group of 15 state attorneys general demanded on Tuesday that executives at Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. strip TikTok of its content rating that classifies the video-sharing app as appropriate for teens.
In letters sent to Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, the state officials, all Republican, said TikTok contains frequent adult content, including about sex and drug use, and can only plausibly qualify for a mature or “17+” rating, not the current teen classifications listed on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
The attorneys general said Google and Apple should be responsible for ensuring accurate age ratings and warned they may face legal action from the states if TikTok’s rating isn’t addressed.
“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,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said in a statement. “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.”
A TikTok spokesman said, “One of our most important commitments is supporting the safety and well-being of teens, which we strive to accomplish through robust safety policies and parental controls, age-appropriate account settings and over 40,000 safety professionals dedicated to keeping our community safe and welcoming.”
Representatives from Google and Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The state coalition, led by Mr. Knudsen, also includes attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
The letter adds to state efforts pushing back against the reach and influence of TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.
Indiana filed a pair of lawsuits against TikTok last week that alleged the platform deceives consumers about its adult content and data security. The state said the lawsuits were the first of their kind. Governors in states including Texas, South Carolina and Alabama in recent days moved to block state agencies from using TikTok because of concerns about data breaches and national security.
Different coalitions of state attorneys general launched probes into TikTok this year, including to examine the app’s impact on teens’ mental health. Those investigations are continuing.
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Appeared in the December 14, 2022, print edition as ‘States Demand Apple, Google Raise TikTok’s Age Ratings.’