Friday, July 19, 2024
HometechTikTok quietly changes user terms amid growing legal scrutiny

TikTok quietly changes user terms amid growing legal scrutiny

NEW YORK – Parents, schools and even attorneys-general in the United States have increasingly been raising concerns about how TikTok may be hooking children to the app and serving them inappropriate content.

But some lawyers say bringing legal action against the company could be more difficult after TikTok quietly changed its terms of service this summer.

In July, TikTok removed rules that had required user disputes to be handled through private arbitration, and instead said complaints must be filed in one of two California courts.

While arbitration has long been considered beneficial to companies, some lawyers have recently figured out how to make it costly for companies by bringing consumers’ arbitration claims en masse.

The terms were also changed to suggest that legal action must be brought within a year of the alleged harm from using the app. Previously, there had been no specified timeline.

The shifts come as the possibility of people taking legal action against TikTok is rising.

A coalition of more than 40 state attorneys-general is investigating the social media giant’s treatment of young users.

The bipartisan investigation, announced in 2022 and led by Tennessee and Colorado, is seeking to determine whether the company engaged in unfair and deceptive conduct that harmed the mental health of children and teens.

Separately, a federal judge in California ruled in November that a case involving hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of young people against the owners of Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat could move forward.

She said the company must face certain product liability claims tied to features on the apps.

TikTok did not return requests for comment. It previously said it has “industry-leading safeguards for young people”.

Mr Kyle Roche, who along with another lawyer, is representing more than 1,000 guardians and minors claiming an array of harms from TikTok usage, sent a letter to the company on Dec 12, challenging the updated terms. He said his clients were minors and could not agree to the changes.

Mr Roche also said he believed TikTok made the changes in anticipation of a wave of litigation. NYTIMES

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