Arkansas has sued Meta Platforms and TikTok for allegedly violating the state's consumer protection laws by misleading consumers.
The complaint against Meta Platforms, brought on Polk County Circuit Court, asserts that the company misled consumers about Facebook's and Instagram's allegedly “addictive nature.”
Arkansas officials brought two separate complaints against TikTok, each with different allegations.
filed in Cleburne County Circuit Court alleges that the company made misleading statements about the availability of sexually explicit content on the service.
The second complaint against TikTok, brought in Union County Circuit Court, alleges that the company duped users about Chinese government officials' ability to access U.S. users' data.
“The common theme of the three lawsuits filed today is deception -- deception that endangers Arkansans, especially our children,” Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin stated. “We are sending Silicon Valley a clear message that their success cannot come at the expense of Arkansas’s youth.”
The complaint against Facebook and Instagram accuses the companies of designing their services to encourage teens to spend more time on the platforms, and that the companies expose young users to potentially harmful content.
“Defendants are liable for the manipulative and addicting features they deploy to hook young users and keep them on the platform and retuning to the platform,” Griffin alleges. “In addition to features such as Instagram filters that encourage unhealthy body image ideals and promotional emails that encourage users to return to their platforms, defendants deluge youth with instant notifications to induce users to return to the platform.”
Those central allegations are similar to ones made against Meta and other platforms by dozens of teens and their parents -- as well as Seattle and other various school districts.
Meta is expected to argue in those cases that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes the company from lawsuits based on content provided by users, and also immunizes the company for decisions about how to present third-party content.
The Supreme Court recently heard arguments about the extent to which Section 230 protects companies that recommend content created by users, and could issue a decision later this year.
The Arkansas complaint claims Meta Platforms has violated a state “public nuisance” law by creating “a mental health crisis in Arkansas's communities, injuring the public's health and safety and interfering with the operations, use, and enjoyment of the life and/or the free use of property of entire communities or neighborhoods.”
Arkansas also claims Meta violated a consumer protection law by denying that its platforms were addictive.
“Despite having internal research detailing the addictive nature of the features being developed and implemented into Meta's platforms, the defendants led users and the parents of young users to believe that their social media platforms were safe for use by young people,” the complaint states.
The lawsuits against TikTok appear similar to ones brought in January by the state of Indiana.
“The TikTok algorithm promotes a variety of mature content to 13–17-year-old users throughout the United States,” Arkansas alleges in the case brought in Cleburne County. “The TikTok algorithm serves up abundant content depicting alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; sexual content, nudity, and suggestive themes; and intense profanity.”
State officials add that TikTok “knowingly made misleading claims” about content in order to receive a “12+” App Store rating -- meaning that the app was appropriate for users over the age of 12.
The complaint brought in Union County alleges that TikTok company misleads users about the privacy of their data.
“TikTok's public statements and omissions paint a picture for Arkansas consumers that there is minimal risk of the Chinese government ... accessing and exploiting their data,” the complaint states. “These statements are false, deceptive, and misleading.”