Any students of local current events and politics probably understands the dynamic of the overly ambitious County Attorney or Attorney General: one who desperately wants a landmark case that will propel their names into the papers and to higher office, and perhaps reaches past what seems reasonable considering their jurisdiction. Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes may have found such a case, but in this case she has serious safety in numbers.
Mayes recently joined the AGs of 32 other states in filing a lawsuit against Meta, the parent of Facebook and Instagram, with the charge that its apps are purposely addicting teenagers. This is not a purely isolated incident however; there is also a parallel lawsuit taking ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to task as well. Along with what could be seen as somewhat predatory policies in favor of maximum engagement, the use of data has always been a hot-button topic, especially insofar as TikTok is involved.
After all, as the long disappearance of Jack Ma, entrepreneur and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, demonstrated after he was publicly critical of the policies of the Chinese Communist Party, in order to be allowed to thrive as a corporation in China, you must be on good terms with the CCP. Considering how important data collection is to the CCP, one can probably assume that TikTok’s data is the CCP’s data if they desire it for any reason.
The lawsuit alleges that the age controls are insufficient to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which dictates that parents must give consent to farm data from anyone under 13. There have also been numerous less legally cut-and-dry issues with those platforms, including increased depression in teens due to the proliferation of unrealistic standards of beauty, as well as addictive qualities that can lock in adolescents for hours every day. However, it’s the violations of Arizona’s consumer laws that make this germane and in the jurisdiction of AG Mayes.
None of this is without any precedent; after all, the European Union has been a thorn in the side of Big Tech for years now, and most recently are making stringent demands of their content. Meta famously blocked news stories from Facebook in Canada since the Canadian government was insistent on controlling the content of its news stories, and some countries, most notably India, have blocked TikTok entirely.
So will this be a blockbuster case for Mayes to rubber stamp her legacy on? Realistically speaking, when you’re one of 33, the political upside is limited, as there was nothing particularly bold or daring about it. But when it comes to talking points come election time, protecting children against the excesses of Silicon Valley (and Chinese) billionaires is one that any halfway wise politician would take advantage of in some regard.