US State’s TikTok Lawsuit Criticised For ‘Irrelevant Posturing’

US state of Indiana criticised for devoting more than 90 percent of complaint against TikTok to ‘irrelevant posturing’

A lawsuit against TikTok is to remain in Indiana state court after a ruling by a federal judge, which criticised the state’s case as being replete with “irrelevant posturing” and “hyperbolic allegations”.

The ruling by US district court judge Holly A. Brady said that the federal court would not take jurisdiction of the civil lawsuit by Indiana attorney general Todd Rokita, denying a request by the social media firm.

The case, one of two lawsuits filed on 7 December in Allen Superior Court against the Chinese social media platform, comes amidst growing official hostility toward TikTok against a background of intensifying geopolitical tensions between the US and China.

US officials have alleged that data collected by TikTok could be accessed by the Chinese government and used against US national interests. TikTok denies US data can be accessed by the Chinese government.

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew. Image credit: TikTok
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew. Image credit: TikTok

Data collection

The Indiana case in part hinges on allegations that China has access to data collected by the app, and also accuses TikTok of violating the state’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act by misleading users about the access and exploitation of their information.

The complaint also alleges TikTok misleads users about the level of inappropriate content hosted by the app.

The case will now return to the county court, where a judge last month ruled against Rokita on two key points.

The judge said Indiana lacks standing because TikTok and Apple – which operates the App Store from which the app is downloaded – are based in California, and that Rokita was wrong to classify the app download as a consumer transaction because no money changes hands.

‘Irrelevant posturing’

Federal judge Brady agreed with TikTok that the state’s case pleads “matters well beyond its legal claim”, but she said there were no issues of federal law involved.

She took the opportunity to note that Rokita’s one-sentence thesis statement had been “stretched into a work longer than Kafka’s The Metamorphosis”, adding that “more than 90 percent of the complaint was devoted to irrelevant posturing”.

The state’s single claim of violation of the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act isn’t made until page 47 of the 51-page filing, she said.

“Only fifteen paragraphs and two pages address Indiana’s actual legal claim,” she wrote.