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US Attorneys General Launch New Probe into the Dangers of TikTok for Young Users



US Attorneys General Launch New Probe into the Dangers of TikTok for Young Users


TikTok will come under regulatory scrutiny in the US once again as part of a new investigation into the impacts that TikTok content can have on the mental health and wellbeing of younger users.

As per CNBC:

TikTok is under investigation by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general to determine if the popular short-form video platform’s design, operations or promotion to young users negatively affects their physical or mental health. The AGs are seeking to find out if the short-form video app violated state consumer-protection laws.”

The investigation will examine how TikTok entices young users, and the content it displays, and how those factors can influence behavior and response – and whether TikTok knowingly puts youngsters at risk through its recommendation systems.

The announcement comes just a day after US President Joe Biden put the focus on the negative impacts of social media once again, after calling out the harms caused by social apps in his annual State of the Union address.

We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit. It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”

The new TikTok probe won’t be looking at data collection specifically, but it could form another element in a broader push against social media apps, and their negative impacts on younger audiences.


The same coalition of AGs also launched a similar investigation into Instagram last November.

What will that mean for TikTok?

It’s hard to say, especially since the Instagram probe is also in progress, so we have no precedent, as such, to indicate the potential findings and recommendations. But it could result in new restrictions for younger users, and potentially a change in the age limit for access to these apps, along with stricter enforcement for any such rules, and penalties for violations.

That’s a difficult area in itself, because in general, online age verification systems are not highly complex, and can easily be side-stepped by increasingly web-savvy youngsters. The platforms are doing more to address this – Instagram added compulsory age checks last year, as well as a new process which defaults teen users into private accounts, and restricts ad targeting capacity for younger audiences. But there are still concerns surrounding their impacts, and with Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen in attendance at the State of the Union address, it does seem that this will be a high priority focus over the coming year.

For its part, TikTok says that it’s doing all it can to protect its primarily young audience.  

Responding to the news, TikTok provided this statement (via Axios):

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users. We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

Definitely, there are concerns, and there have been various cases of harm and mental health impacts as a result of social media use.  


But at the same time, social media is now such a critical part of our interactive process, and has become even more so over the past two years, amid the restrictions of the pandemic. Is it possible to create a system that offers adequate protection, while also facilitating connection across such a broad group?


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Iran pop singer silenced, but his song remains a protest anthem



Shervin Hajipour's song "Baraye" draws on the tweets of Iranians longing for a normal life

Shervin Hajipour’s song “Baraye” draws on the tweets of Iranians longing for a normal life – Copyright Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)/AFP –

David Vujanovic

Even though he has been silenced, Iranian pop singer Shirvin Hajipour’s impassioned song in support of protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody remains an unofficial anthem of the movement.

The song “Baraye” notched up 40 million views on Instagram before it was deleted when Hajipour was arrested, but he has since been freed on bail and has distanced himself from politics, likely as a condition for his release.

Baraye, the Persian word “For” or “Because”, is composed of tweets about the protests and highlights longings people have for things lacking in sanctions-hit Iran, where many complain of hardship caused by economic mismanagement.

It also draws on everyday activities that have landed people in trouble with the authorities in the Islamic republic.

“For the sake of dancing in the streets; Because of the fear felt while kissing; For my sister, your sister, your sisters,” the song’s lyrics say.


“Because of the embarrassment of an empty pocket; Because we are longing for a normal life… Because of this polluted air.”

Baraye has been heard played loudly at night from apartment blocks in Iran to show support for protests sparked by Amini’s death on September 16, after the notorious morality police arrested her for allegedly breaching rules requiring women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.

It was also sung with gusto by the Iranian diaspora at rallies in more than 150 cities around the world at the weekend.

In one clip shared by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, a group of schoolgirls without headscarves is seen singing Baraye in class with their backs to the camera.

The tune was removed from Hajipour’s Instagram account shortly after his arrest but is still widely available on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.

– ‘Because of forced Instagram stories’ –

Hajipour’s lawyer Majid Kaveh said he was released on bail at noon on Tuesday.

The reformist Shargh newspaper said his family had been informed of his arrest in the northern city of Sari on Saturday, in a report that cited his sister Kamand Hajipour.


She had said in an Instagram post that her parents had been informed of his arrest in a call from the city’s intelligence ministry offices.

Shortly after his release, Hajipour was back on Instagram, but this time to apologise and distance himself from politics.

“I’m here to say I’m okay,” he told his 1.9 million followers on the platform.

“But I’m sorry that some particular movements based outside of Iran — which I have had no relations with — made some improper political uses of this song.

“I would not swap this (country) for anywhere else and I will stay for my homeland, my flag, my people, and I will sing.

“I don’t want to be a plaything for those who do not think of me, you or this country,” he added.

In response to his post, many on Twitter suggested the line “Because of forced Instagram stories” should be added to the lyrics of the song.

Human rights groups including Article 19 have repeatedly called on Iran to end its use of forced confessions, which they say are false and extracted under duress or even torture.


In one recent case, a young Iranian woman, Sepideh Rashno, disappeared after becoming involved in a dispute on a Tehran bus with another woman who accused her of removing her headscarf.

She was held by the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and appeared on television in what activists said was a forced confession before being released on bail in late August.

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