Federal judge calls Indiana attorney general’s TikTok lawsuit ‘political posturing’

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The fate of the Indiana attorney general’s lawsuit against social media company TikTok is uncertain after a federal judge called much of the case “political posturing.”

While U.S. District Judge Holly Brady ruled against TikTok’s request to send the case to federal court, the move leaves Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita’s lawsuit in the hands of a county judge. who ruled last month against Rokita on two key points. The state’s attorney general says the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform is misleading users about its level of inappropriate content and consumer information security. A county judge has previously said the attorney general was wrong to classify downloading TikTok as a consumer transaction because no money is exchanged, and that Indiana lacks standing in the case because TikTok and Apple – the company where people download the app – are based in California.

The most recent blow came on May 23, when Brady wrote in a ruling that “over 90% of the (trial) was spent on irrelevant posturing.”

“As one scours the political posturing and uncovers this legal claim, the inevitable conclusion is that the claim rises and falls on issues particular to state law,” Brady, a Fort Wayne-based judge, said in a statement. Indiana, appointed by then-President Donald Trump, wrote. “The federal intrigue launched by Indiana may appeal to its intended audience – one beyond the courthouse wall – but it is irrelevant to the determination of this case.”

The Indiana lawsuit, which was filed in December, makes similar arguments to those of many state and federal lawmakers and government officials who have said they are concerned that the Chinese government could harvest data from American users of TikTok and use the platform to push pro-Beijing misinformation or message to the public. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, said it was never asked to hand over its data to the Chinese government and denied Indiana’s allegations of inappropriate content.

The state attorney general’s office did not immediately comment Monday on Brady’s decision or the future of the trial. Attorneys for TikTok and ByteDance’s media office also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Brady’s decision keeps the lawsuit in state court, where a judge last month denied Rokita’s request for a preliminary injunction barring TikTok from stating in online app stores that it has no “none” or “infrequent/mild” references to drugs, sexual content or other content inappropriate for children 12 and older.

Allen County Superior Court Judge Craig Bobay in Fort Wayne also ruled that downloading TikTok’s free app did not constitute a consumer transaction and said the attorney general’s office was unlikely to win at trial.

The attorney general’s office did not say whether it would appeal Bobay’s decision.

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