CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Utah names TikTok in new lawsuit over “virtual strip club”

Jun 3, 2024, 11:46 AM | Updated: Jun 11, 2024, 8:56 am

TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are suing the U.S. federal government over a law th...

FILE: TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are suing the U.S. federal government over a law that would ban the popular video-sharing app unless it’s sold to another company. (Kiichiro Sato, Associated Press)

(Kiichiro Sato, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Consumer Protection filed a lawsuit Monday naming the social media platform TikTok over a practice the state says creates a “virtual strip club.” 

At issue is TikTok’s live video streaming feature, TikTok LIVE. According to the lawsuit, when combined with TikTok monetization options, TikTok LIVE allows adult users to pay minors using virtual currency to perform illegal acts, including sexual exploitation and distribution of child pornography. 

 

New lawsuit pits Utah against TikTok 

In a statement issued with the lawsuit, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office claimed TikTok “has consciously allowed young people to be sexually exploited on the TikTok platform in exchange for money.” 

The lawsuit itself goes into more detail about the claims, accusing TikTok of deliberately manipulates users through the use of “design features known as ‘dark patterns'”. Utah prosecutors allege those dark pattern design features “make their social media apps ‘stickier’ — keeping users engaged for longer,” according to the lawsuit.  

The Utah lawsuit claims TikTok uses these features to encourage users to use the platform’s currency and participate in the live stream feature. 

In the statement, Reyes claimed the combined practice “facilitates money laundering.” 

Adding insult to injury, Live facilitates money laundering while TikTok quietly charges fifty percent on every transaction to profit in the billions from the entire enterprise . . . Our investigation confirmed TikTok knows of the damage to young victims but feels it makes far too much money to stop.

A virtual strip club 

In the lawsuit, the state of Utah outlines the possible illegal activity that adult users could pay minors to perform via TikTok LIVE. 

“TikTok has created a virtual strip club allowing minors to be exploited across America by connecting innocent victims to predators in real-time,” Reyes said in the statement. 

The lawsuit extensively cites a Forbes article from April 2022 that outlined how adults could solicit sex acts from minors on TikTok. It detailed transactions to encourage teens to show off their bodies, flirt with each other on command, and more, sometimes through explicit requests and sometimes using more coded language. 

Users would “reward” teens with virtual gifts and currency. TikTok rules forbids the use of LIVE by users under 16, and the exchange of gifts or currency for users under 18. Forbes determined several of the streams its reporters viewed were removed by the time they published, but the Utah lawsuit claims TikTok does not enforce its own rules. 

“Even before the Forbes story broke,” the lawsuit states, “TikTok knew about pervasive issues with transactional sexual content occurring during LIVE sessions, especially involving kids, through user complaints and internal safety reports.” 

Seeking a stop to illegal activity

Much of the Utah lawsuit remains redacted at this writing, including how many TikTok users live in Utah. Details about how much money TikTok makes from LIVE or how much Utah users generate through virtual currency are also redacted. 

The state of Utah seeks to stop TikTok from profiting off illegal activity. It also seeks damages and restitution for victims, civil penalties, and the seizure of any profits made from illegal activity. 

KSL reached out to ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, for comment. We have not yet received a response. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Crime, Police + Courts

Officers stopped the teens in possession of the stolen car  in Kearns. The driver of the stolen car...

Esme Sanchez Estevez

BREAKING: Pursuit of 3 teens who stole a car in Kearns

Officers stopped the teens in possession of the stolen car in Kearns. The driver of the stolen car is still on the run.

5 hours ago

A Biden-Harris campaign sign is seen among signs for other Utah Democratic Party candidates during ...

Eric Cabrera

Stealing campaign signs could get you a misdemeanor charge

Police say stealing campaign signs from your neighbor's lawn could cost you a misdemeanor, or even the right to vote.

11 hours ago

SLCPD say after criminal behavior among cyclists on the 999 ride...they are enforcing and educating...

Heather Peterson

Salt Lake City police cracking down on 999 Ride crime

Salt lake City Police say after criminal behavior among cyclists on the 999 ride. They are enforcing and educating riders on the law.

14 hours ago

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a 2017 ban on bump stocks, a gun accessory that allows semi-a...

Devin Oldroyd

Supreme Court overturns ban on bump stocks Friday

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a 2017 ban on bump stocks, a gun accessory that allows semi-automatic firearms to rapid fire.

15 hours ago

SCOTUS ruling on mifepristone...

Kira Hoffelmeyer, Jessica Lowell

Utah reactions to SCOTUS ruling on mifepristone access

The SCOTUS ruling on mifepristone means the abortion pill will remain accessible to women.

1 day ago

The SCOTUS has unanimously preserved access to the "abortion pill," which was used in nearly two-th...

Randall Jeppesen

SCOTUS unanimously preserves access to abortion pill

The SCOTUS has preserved access to the "abortion pill," which was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...

Comcast

Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Utah names TikTok in new lawsuit over “virtual strip club”