HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s attorney general is joining a nationwide investigation into the wildly popular social media app TikTok.
State attorneys general announced a bipartisan investigation into TikTok and its possible harmful effects on young users’ physical and mental health.
“All of us are really concerned about the ways in which social media platforms may be a platform or a conduit for people to engage in more dangerous behavior,” Connecticut Attorney General Willaim Tong said at a press conference Wednesday.
U.S. lawmakers and federal regulators have criticized TikTok, citing practices and computer-driven promotion of content they say can endanger the physical and mental health of young users.
Tong said he’s had multiple conversations with TikTok leaders about “reckless” viral challenges like the “whoosh bottle experiment.” In December 2021, a 12-year-old East Haven boy was severely burned while attempting the challenge. He was treated at the Connecticut Burn Center in Bridgeport.
Tong said they want to look at what TikTok knew about the risks to children, and what they’ve been doing to keep children online.
“This investigation of TikTok will focus on what TikTok knows about its platform, its algorithm and its impact on young people, whether it knows it causes harm to young people, the types of harms that it is aware of, and what it’s doing about it,” Tong said.
The Connecticut Education Association (CEA) said TikTok has disrupted teaching and learning, leaving some students feeling unsafe in their schools.
“It’s a continued layer of frustration about how are we to continue the business and work of the day if we are constantly looking at things like TikTok and wondering ‘is this going to happen in our community,'” said Kate Dias, CEA president.
Tong admitted that some of the alleged challenges proved to be just rumors, and credited the leaders of the social site for their swift response.
“I want to credit TikTok for responding immediately to me, to the state of Connecticut whenever we have an issue or concern,” Tong said.
Tong said leaders from TikTok will be coming to Connecticut to meet with him and other state leaders, like U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to answer their questions and concerns.
“Along with Congressional scrutiny, this significant bipartisan probe will uncover TikTok’s actions that put profits over kids’ safety,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “This investigation underscores the urgent need for our Kids Online Safety Act, so these state attorneys general can hold platforms like TikTok legally and financially accountable for the harms they find. I will be fighting for passage of this bill to impose long-overdue accountability on Big Tech and to empower kids and parents online.”
TikTok has an estimated 1 billion monthly users.
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.