Attorney General Bonta Demands TikTok Comply with State Investigations into Its Harm to Children’s Mental Health

Sunday, March 5, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, as part of a bipartisan multistate coalition, filed an amicus brief supporting efforts to compel TikTok to produce subpoenaed materials and evidence as part of ongoing nationwide investigations into the company’s role in the growing youth mental health crisis. The friend of the court brief supports a motion by Tennessee — one of a number of states investigating the platform — requesting a court order requiring TikTok to preserve and produce relevant evidence in response to an outstanding investigative subpoena. The petition alleges that the company has to date failed to preserve some potentially relevant evidence, in the form of internal employee chat messages, and is hampering the investigation of Tennessee and other states across the country, including California.

“We know that social media is taking a devastating toll on young people’s mental health and well-being, and through our investigation we are getting a clearer sense of TikTok’s role,” said Attorney General Bonta. “TikTok cannot evade accountability — and today we are asking the court to order TikTok to cooperate with our investigation. Our children are hurting and we have no time to waste in our efforts to determine if TikTok is violating the law in promoting its platform to young Californians.” 

The brief supports the issuance of an order compelling TikTok to comply with requests made as part of the state investigations looking into the harms TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. Based on the investigations to date, the states have overwhelming reason to believe that a significant driver of the mental health crisis of American children and teens is the use of social media platforms, particularly TikTok. Additionally, TikTok has demonstrated its knowledge of this risk, implementing restrictions and protective measures in other countries, including China, that limit the amount of time youth may access the platform each day.

Heavy use of social media is strongly associated with self-harm, depression, and low self-esteem in teens—and every additional hour young people spend on social media is associated with an increased severity of the symptoms of depression. The scope and severity of the crisis in children and teens has only grown worse. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a startling increase in challenges to youth mental health, youth experiences of violence, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among teenagers. Girls are disproportionately affected. Nearly 3 in 5 (57%) high school girls surveyed said they had experienced “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” in the previous year, double the rate reported by boys. Nearly a third of girls surveyed seriously considered suicide in 2021, up nearly 60% from 2011. In 2021, more than 1 in 10 girls reported a suicide attempt, marking a 30% increase from a decade ago.

A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.

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