An Indiana county judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state accusing TikTok of deceiving its users about the level of inappropriate content for children on its platform and the security of its consumers’ personal information.
A pair of lawsuits filed in December 2022 accused the app of misleading its viewers—particularly children. They alleged the app contains “salacious and inappropriate content” despite the company claiming it is safe for children 13 years and under. In the second complaint, the state argued that the app deceives consumers into believing their sensitive and personal information is secure. The lawsuits have since been consolidated. The latest hearing on the motion to dismiss was held in October.
Judge Jennifer L. DeGroote of the Allen County Superior Court in Fort Wayne made the ruling.
The dismissal is an apparent national first with similar lawsuits pending in Arkansas and Utah.
In a written statement, a spokesperson for Attorney General Todd Rokita said the office is “considering appellate options at this time” and maintained its position taken in the lawsuit.
“We were the first state to file suit against TikTok, but not the last, and it’s reassuring to see others take up this ongoing fight against a foreign Big Tech threat, in any jurisdiction,” the spokesperson said.
In her ruling, DeGroote said the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the case and reaffirmed a previous court ruling that found downloading a free app does not count as consumer transaction under the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
A lead attorney for TikTok referred The Associated Press to TikTok’s media email address. The Associated Press sent an email to TikTok’s communications team asking for comment.
There were previous signs of skepticism from courts about the Republican attorney general’s arguments.
In May, an Indiana county judge ruled that downloading the free app does not equate to a consumer transaction under state law, dealing a blow to Rokita, who has cast himself as an enemy of social media giants including Meta.
Allen County Superior Court Judge Craig Bobay also ruled at that time that state courts do not have authority over TikTok’s statements to Apple’s app store as both companies are based in California. He added that no aspect of the “age rating process” takes place in Indiana.
A federal judge later rejected TikTok’s request to move the lawsuit to federal court but also described the attorney general’s lawsuit as largely “ political posturing ” in a ruling.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. The app has been a target over the past year of state and federal lawmakers who say the Chinese government could access the app’s users’ data.
Indiana is among several states and the federal government that have ordered the TikTok app deleted from government-issued devices. Montana became the first state in the U.S. to pass a complete ban on the app in May, set to go into effect Jan. 1.
Indiana joined dozens of U.S. states that sued Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. in October, saying it collects data on children under the age of 13 without parental consent. According to newly unsealed documents, Meta deliberately engineered its social platforms to addict children and never disclosed it received millions of complaints about underage users on Instagram. It only disabled a fraction of those accounts.