Attorney General Phil Weiser leads state coalition asking court to order TikTok to preserve and produce communications critical to multistate investigation
March 6, 2023 (DENVER)—Amid the ongoing youth mental health crisis, Attorney General Phil Weiser today led a coalition of 46 attorneys general in asking a state court to order social media company TikTok, Inc. to fully comply with an ongoing investigation into whether the company violated consumer protection laws.
As part of the multistate investigation led by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, state attorneys general seek to review internal TikTok communications to determine whether the company engaged in deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable conduct that harmed the mental health of TikTok users, particularly children and teens.
Despite the request for these communications falling squarely within the investigative authority of the state attorneys general, today’s amicus brief asserts that TikTok repeatedly and knowingly failed to preserve relevant information and failed to provide internal communications in a useful format. For example, TikTok employees use an instant messaging service called Lark as their primary mechanism to communicate internally, but TikTok has flouted their duty to preserve communications and provide them in a useable format. They have instead continued to allow employees to send auto-deleting messages over the Lark platform after the start of the investigation and have provided messages to the states in a format that is difficult to use and navigate.
Because use of social media platforms like TikTok has a significant role in the ongoing youth mental health crisis, it is critical that TikTok produce all relevant internal corporate communications to understand whether the company broke any laws.
“We know that teen mental health is at a crisis point—and the rising concerns are correlated with increased use of social media platforms that display harmful content. It is critical that we thoroughly investigate these concerns and do all we can to ensure that we are protecting our kids’ mental health. As all parents know, mental health means everything and we need to meet this crisis with the urgency it demands,” stated Weiser.
There is a wealth of peer-reviewed research showing social media platforms, especially image- and video-based platforms like TikTok, are playing a substantial role in harming youth mental health. For example, in February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings demonstrating a startling increase in challenges to youth mental health, youth experiences of violence, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among teenagers, especially teenage girls. This includes a finding that nearly one-third of teen girls seriously considered suicide in 2021, a nearly 60% increase from a decade prior. Other peer-reviewed research shows increased teen social media use is a significant driver of this crisis.
The attorneys general involved in the multistate investigation have a duty to protect the people of their states from illegal business practices, and TikTok’s failure to preserve and share relevant internal communications hampers the investigation. The filed brief therefore requests that the court compel TikTok to provide the information sought.
Joining Weiser on the amicus brief are the attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, as well as the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.