NH Files Lawsuit Against TikTok Alleging Harm to the Mental Health of Children

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Concord, NH – Attorney General John M. Formella announces a lawsuit today against TikTok, Inc. in Merrimack County Superior Court for violating the State’s consumer protection statute and other laws.

Today’s lawsuit is the latest development in a comprehensive effort by New Hampshire leaders to address the serious harms posed to children by addictive social media platforms.  This lawsuit follows a complaint filed by the State against Meta Platforms, Inc., in October 2023, alleging similar manipulative design features and deceptive business practices.

The State’s complaint against TikTok alleges that the company engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices in violation of New Hampshire law by designing an unfair product and misleading New Hampshire consumers about its safety.  TikTok’s platform includes addictive features to exploit young users’ naivete and ongoing brain development and maximize the time young users spend on the platform in the interest of profit. TikTok’s addictive design features make it hard for children to disengage from the platform and lead to a cycle of excessive use.  The complaint alleges that the company knows this cycle of excessive use results in profound harm to its young users, including depression, anxiety, and isolation from friends and family.  As the company deployed these features, it also lied to parents about the safety of the platform, downplayed the risks posed, while touting supposed safety measures that the company knows are ineffective.  

“New Hampshire puts our kids first,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “This lawsuit, combined with our earlier Executive Order investigating the harms of social media on New Hampshire’s youth is another wakeup call for parents on the dangers that social media presents to our kids.” 

“Today, we take a critical step to protect our children from the predatory practices of TikTok. Our lawsuit alleges that TikTok has shamelessly exploited young users through deceptive design features that foster addiction and endanger mental health. We contend that TikTok knowingly deceived New Hampshire families with false assurances of safety while profiting from the vulnerabilities of its youngest users,” said Attorney General Formella. “This action underscores our commitment to holding social media platforms accountable for their harmful actions to youth. We will vigorously pursue this case to ensure that TikTok is held responsible and that meaningful changes are made to protect our children’s well-being. This lawsuit is just the latest step in our ongoing efforts to ensure that platforms like TikTok operate responsibly and transparently in our state.”

     Today’s complaint alleges that TikTok deliberately exploited its youngest users for profit, including by:

  • Creating a manipulative and addictive product that ensnares young users into endlessly scrolling its platform which it knows is harmful to children’s mental health and well-being.
  • Misleading New Hampshire’s youngest users and their parents about the safety of the platform with false assurances  about the effectiveness of enforcement of community guidelines, and content moderation.
  • Collecting personal data from children under the age of thirteen without disclosures or parental consent.
  • Inappropriately downplaying the continued control that its China-based parent ByteDance Ltd. exercises to avoid regulatory scrutiny and customer concerns about the safety of their data.

The lawsuit documents the deceptive representations TikTok has made to New Hampshire citizens and the detrimental impact that TikTok’s conduct has had on New Hampshire citizens.   The complaint argues that as the platform grew in popularity, so did instances of mental health issues among the State’s young people.  

New Hampshire’s lawsuit alleges claims for deceptive and unfair business practices, products liability, and negligence.

The State seeks to protect children who call the Granite State home and hold TikTok accountable for its illegal business practices. The complaint asks the Court to enter an injunction requiring substantive changes in how the company operates. The State also seeks penalties and other monetary relief to address the harms that these practices have caused. The Attorney General’s investigation of other social media platforms for related practices continues.

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