Cleburne County Judge Denies TikTok’s Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit

Last week Cleburne County Circuit Judge Holly Meyer denied a motion by TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, which had asked the judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the social media giant.

The decision means Attorney General Tim Griffin’s lawsuit against TikTok can proceed.

With an estimated one billion users worldwide and some 135 million in the U.S., TikTok is among the most popular social media platforms on earth. However, last year Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin filed two lawsuits accusing TikTok of violating Arkansas’ Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit in Cleburne County Circuit Court alleges TikTok violated the Deceptive Trade Practices Act by promoting “intensely sexualized” content — including content that sexualizes children — on its platform.

TikTok markets its app as being appropriate for children, but once they are on the TikTok app, TikTok’s algorithm “force-feeds” many children a non-stop diet of objectionable content.

Some of the objectionable content that the A.G. says TikTok promotes to children includes:

  • Content depicting alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
  • Sexual content
  • Nudity
  • Suggestive themes
  • Violence
  • Intense profanity and obscenity

The lawsuit also alleges much of this content is available to teenagers even when using the app’s Restricted Mode that is intended to filter inappropriate material.

The A.G. notes that TikTok’s algorithm actually promotes this content regardless of the user’s age — meaning that many children using TikTok may be exposed to this type of material without necessarily searching for it.

The lawsuit alleges that TikTok has downplayed just how prevalent this type of material is on its platform and has deceptively labeled the app as being appropriate for ages 13 and up when TikTok really should be rated 17+.

TikTok has tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, saying that state court isn’t the proper jurisdiction for suing the company and claiming the A.G.’s team did not adequately argue its claims about deceptive trade practices.

But Judge Meyer rejected these arguments — meaning the lawsuit can move forward.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance has struggled to protect private user data from entities in China, and the platform has faced criticism for letting its algorithm serve users what some call a steady “diet of darkness” online.

As U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman wrote in March,

Although TikTok executives claim that it does not share any data collected by the app, there are several Chinese laws in place that provide CCP [Chinese Communist Party] officials access to all user data collected by Chinese-owned tech companies, like TikTok. This means the CCP has access to sensitive data, like the location of every TikTok user worldwide, including the over 210 million Americans who have downloaded the app.

In April, President Biden signed a bipartisan piece of legislation requiring TikTok’s Chinese parent-company, ByteDance, to divest itself of the platform by January 19, 2025. If ByteDance fails to sell TikTok, the law would ban TikTok in the United States.

TikTok is suing to have that law struck down in court.

As we have said repeatedly, there is mounting evidence that — by design — social media platforms like TikTok may deliberately push objectionable content to kids and put users’ personal information at risk. With that in mind, it’s good to see policymakers taking action to rein in these tech giants.

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.

Legal Battle Continues Over Law Protecting Children From Harmful Materials in Public Libraries

The federal lawsuit continues over Act 372 of 2023, a good law that generally prohibits giving or sending a child harmful material that contains nudity or sexual activity.

The Arkansas Legislature passed Act 372 last year to protect children from harmful material and to eliminate exemptions for public libraries and schools in the state’s obscenity statute. The law also clarifies how library patrons can work to remove objectionable material from a library’s catalog.

Act 372 was slated to take effect last August, but a coalition of libraries in Arkansas led by the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging portions of Act 372.

Last July U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks blocked two sections of Act 372 — Section 1, which makes it a Class A misdemeanor to give or send a child harmful sexual material that contains nudity or sexual activity, and Section 5, which clarifies how library patrons can work to remove objectionable material from a library’s catalog.

The ruling did not affect Sections 2, 3, 4, and 6 of Act 372, which eliminate exemptions for schools and libraries in the state’s obscenity statute, address inappropriate material in public school libraries, and permit the disclosure of certain library records.

Last week the libraries who filed the lawsuit asked Judge Brooks for a permanent injunction blocking Act 372. Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office is defending Act 372 in court.

Act 372 isn’t just about library books—it’s about protecting our children.

Family Council has heard repeatedly from people who are deeply troubled by obscene and inappropriate children’s books that some librarians have placed on the shelves of their local libraries.

For example, the Jonesboro public library has been at the center of multiple controversies over its decision to place books with sexually-explicit images in its children’s section and for failing to adopt a policy that separates sexual material from children’s content.

The library in Jonesboro even went so far as to post on Facebook that it isn’t the library’s responsibility to protect kids from obscenity. Following the controversy in Jonesboro, voters opted to cut the library’s millage in half.

Other public libraries in Arkansas have included graphic children’s books in their catalogs and failed to separate sexual material from children’s material as well.

Some of the people who testified publicly against Act 372 last spring signaled that they want to be free to share obscene material with children at a library. That simply isn’t right.

Libraries ought to be held to the same standards as everyone else when it comes to giving harmful or obscene material to children.

Public libraries are supposed to be for everyone.

Families should be able to take their children to the library without worrying what their children might see.

And taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize graphic novels that depict explicit images of minors engaged in sexual acts.

Act 372 is a good law that will help protect children in Arkansas. We believe higher courts will recognize that fact and ultimately uphold this law as constitutional.

Guest Column: Avoiding Porn Is Weird to the World—Good

Recently, Rolling Stone magazine reported on an emerging scandal involving the new speaker of the House of Representatives—not financial corruption, an illicit affair, or ties to foreign powers. No, it turns out that Mike Johnson and his son use the Covenant Eyes app to keep each other accountable about pornography and the internet. 

According to Rolling Stone, this is weird. And, seizing on the article, others called it creepy, even grooming, as if they could not grasp that the point is to keep each other off of porn and out of addiction. 

Not only did the whole episode reveal an utter ignorance of a basic belief of the world’s largest religion, it also betrayed how much a view of normal can be upside down, as if porn is not a cancer on society or a curse on women and children, corrupting the souls of those who consume it.  

 If the Johnson boys’ behavior is weird, then as historian Tom Holland has reminded us, let’s stay “weird,” Christians. 

Copyright 2023 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from with permission.