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Federal lawsuit against TikTok to focus on children’s privacy: report

The Department of Justice (DOJ) plans to focus its upcoming lawsuit against TikTok on allegations that the company violated children’s privacy rights, according to a new report.

According to Reuters, the Justice Department’s lawsuit will focus on children’s privacy rights, rather than allegations that the social media platform misled adult users about its data privacy practices. The news comes after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it was investigating potential violations by TikTok and its China-based parent company, ByteDance, and referred the case to the Justice Department on Tuesday.

“As a result of our investigation, we found reason to believe that the defendants have violated or are attempting to violate the law and that proceedings are in the public interest,” the FTC said in a statement at the time. “While the Commission does not typically publicly disclose the facts of its complaints, we have determined that it is in the public interest to do so in this instance.”

FTC forwards complaint against TikTok to Department of Justice over children’s privacy violations

TikTok App

The Department of Justice reportedly plans to focus its case against TikTok on the social media platform’s children’s privacy policy. (Yang Cong/Via Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Reuters first reported in 2020 that the FTC and DOJ were investigating allegations that TikTok had failed to comply with a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy.

“We have been working with the FTC for over a year to address their concerns,” a TikTok spokesperson told Fox Business in a statement. “We are disappointed that the FTC has chosen to forgo pursuing a reasonable solution and instead file a lawsuit. Many of the FTC’s allegations are factually incorrect or relate to past events or practices that have already been addressed, and we strongly oppose the FTC’s allegations.”

“We are proud of the work we’ve done to protect kids and remain committed to it, as we continue to update and improve our product. We have rigorous safety measures in place to provide an age-appropriate experience, actively exclude minors, and have voluntarily introduced safety features like default screen time limits, family pairing and default privacy for minors under the age of 16,” TikTok’s statement continued.

TikTok says a U.S. ban is inevitable unless divestment laws are blocked

TikTok headquarters logo

TikTok is under investigation by the FTC and DOJ for allegedly violating children’s privacy rights. (Aaron P/Bauer Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images)

The FTC investigation is separate from Congress’s passage of legislation that would require TikTok to be separated from its China-based parent company, ByteDance, or it could be banned in the United States, due to concerns that the Chinese government may have unauthorized access to U.S. users’ data and the ability to use TikTok to spread propaganda and suppress certain views.

Such concerns led to legislation passed earlier this year that would ban ByteDance from early next year unless it sold its TikTok US operations.

The law gives TikTok and ByteDance until Jan. 19, 2025 to decide whether to sell the companies to owners who are not from a foreign country considered an adversary of the United States, or a ban on the platforms will go into effect, preventing app store operators such as Apple and Google and internet service providers from accessing the platforms.

Billionaire real estate mogul plans to buy TikTok in ‘People’s bid’

TikTok Bill in Congress

Congress and President Biden have enacted bipartisan legislation that would see TikTok banned in the U.S. next year if it isn’t sold by ByteDance. (Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images)

TikTok has denied the allegations and filed lawsuits to block the legislation. In a filing last week, ByteDance said a sale of TikTok’s U.S. assets would be “technically, commercially and legally impossible.” The company added that “the Chinese government has made clear in its public statements that it will not permit a forced sale of its recommendation engine.”

Uncertainty over TikTok’s fate has piqued the interest of investors looking to buy the social media platform to prevent it from being banned.

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Billionaire real estate developer Frank McCourt has formed a coalition of investors to try to buy TikTok from ByteDance, and former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and “Shark Tank” star Kevin O’Leary, chairman of O’Leary Ventures, have also said they are interested in forming an investment group to buy TikTok.

Reuters contributed to this report.