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Healey, other AGs will investigate physical and mental harm to children from TikTok

The TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
The TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Attorney General Maura Healey is joining with her counterparts from California, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont to launch an investigation into whether social media platform TikTok has violated consumer protection laws.

Healey's office announced the probe Wednesday, saying it will explore "whether TikTok is designing, operating, and promoting its social media platform to children, teens, and young adults in a manner that causes or exacerbates physical and mental health harms."

Massachusetts will be one of eight states leading the investigation, which will also involve what Healey's office called a "broad group" of other attorneys general.

"As children and teens already grapple with issues of anxiety, social pressure, and depression, we cannot allow social media to further harm their physical health and mental wellbeing," Healey said in a statement. "State attorneys general have an imperative to protect young people and seek more information about how companies like TikTok are influencing their daily lives."

One focus of the investigation, Healey's office said, will be how TikTok works to boost young users' engagement, including increasing the duration of time spent on the app and frequency of use.

A social media app focused on creating and sharing short videos, TikTok is especially popular with younger users but has become widespread across various spheres, ushering in a new class of influencers and celebrities and serving as a venue for viral recipes and dance challenges as well as a platform for campaigning and information-sharing.

Healey, a Democratic candidate for governor, has a TikTok account, and Congressman Jake Auchincloss posted a video Tuesday night before President Joe Biden's State of the Union.

Healey and the same group of attorneys general investigating TikTok last November announced a similar investigation into Meta Platforms, Inc., the company formerly known as Facebook, over its promotion of Instagram to children and young adults.

Healey said at the time that Meta "has failed to protect young people on its platforms and instead chose to ignore or, in some cases, double down on known manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health – exploiting children in the interest of profit."

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