An Indiana judge has dealt a blow to the state’s attorney general’s lawsuit against TikTok by ruling that downloading the free social media app does not amount to a consumer transaction under state law. In December 2020, the Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita had filed a lawsuit against the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform, alleging that it misleads its users about the level of inappropriate content and security of consumer information.

Rokita had requested a court order preventing TikTok from stating on online app stores that it has “none” or “infrequent/mild” references to drugs, sexual or other inappropriate content for children as young as 12. However, Judge Craig Bobay of Allen County Superior Court in Fort Wayne denied the request, stating that state courts do not have authority over TikTok’s statements to Apple’s app store as both companies are based in California.

Furthermore, the judge also ruled that Indiana’s consumer protection law doesn’t extend to the downloading of free apps as no money is exchanged, and thus, the attorney general’s office is unlikely to win a trial over the lawsuit.

The lawsuit had made arguments similar to those from many state and federal lawmakers and government officials who have claimed that the Chinese government could harvest U.S. user data from TikTok and use the platform to push pro-Beijing misinformation or messages to the public. TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance, has denied these claims and said that it has never been asked to hand over its data.

Indiana is among several states and the federal government that have ordered the TikTok app deleted from government-issued devices. Despite the judge’s ruling, the attorney general’s office has encouraged Indiana residents to remove the TikTok app from their devices, stating that “Protecting our kids from TikTok’s insidious and invasive content is critical.”

The judge’s ruling is a significant milestone in the ongoing legal battle between TikTok and state governments. While this ruling is only related to Indiana, it could have broader implications for other lawsuits against the platform in different states. TikTok has also faced criticism and bans from other countries, including India, where the app was banned in 2020 over concerns of national security and user privacy.

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