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Colorado aids nationwide investigation into TikTok and its impact on young people

Investigators ask about techniques used to keep teens engaged for long durations
Colorado aids nationwide investigation into TikTok and its impact on young people
Posted at 4:57 AM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 15:18:56-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — This month Colorado’s attorney general decided to join law enforcement leaders from several other states in a bipartisan effort to learn more about the TikTok platform and how it impacts our teens.

News5 takes a look at what exactly they’re trying to find out and why a local mom who studies social media believes this is an important effort.

Last year a similar coalition of attorneys general focused their attention on Facebook and Instagram, voicing concerns about how these platforms could be marketed to young people and kids.

Now, they turn their attention to TikTok and say it has an obligation to manage its platform fairly and responsibly.

”So I’ve been interested in this from the very beginning and now I have teenagers myself because it has been years now. My daughter is the same age as the IPhone,” said Lauren Hug, a local mom who has studied social media for years and published books about her experiences. “So I’m very interested as a parent in how they can use this in positive ways, but also the dangers of being in online spaces that we didn’t have when I was a kid.”

Hug is a professional consultant and has studied social media platforms for years writing books like “Digital Kindness” documenting some of her concerns and observations.

”I don’t think they’re sitting around trying to do terrible things. I think sometimes the platforms get painted that way, really they’re trying to increase people using their platform and what increases people’s engagement we’ve learned are conflict and anger,” said Hug.

When it comes to TikTok, she says she’s happy to see Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is joining an investigation into the platform.

”How it’s impacting their development, how it’s impacting their brains, how it’s impacting their ability to focus in school, so I think looking into it makes a whole lot of sense,” said Hug.

Here is what the top law enforcement leaders say they’re hoping to learn as part of their investigation into TikTok:

  • They want to know more about the harms caused by teen usage, duration of that usage and engagement
  • What TikTok knew about those harms
  • What techniques the company is using to boost engagement for young people and others

”Regulation of these social networks is a part of the pie in figuring out how we’re going to navigate a digital world,” said Hug. ”Right now the algorithms reward the people who are mean and who are constantly posting instead of rewarding collaboration or anything positive.”

While this is a fact finding mission for our attorney general and his colleagues, ultimately they want to determine whether TikTok violated state consumer protection laws that put the public and especially children and young adults at risk.

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