With the aim of preventing grooming on the platform, the short video sharing app TikTok will impose “groundbreaking” new restrictions on children on the platform and the new rules will be particularly severe for those users who are under the age of 16 years, the Chinese owned company said.
Those children users of the platform, which allows children as low as 13 years to become its users, will not be allowed to receive comments from strangers while their videos will not be allowed to be used for “duets” and will not be allowed to mark their posts as being downloadable, the company said. The accounts of the children will be labeled “private” by default which means that no one except those on their friend list will be allowed to view their videos.
And for users under the age of 18 years, the default settings across the app will also be changed by the company. All the videos that are posted by users who are 16- and 17-year-olds will be marked as unavailable for download unless they actively change the settings. That means only friends will be able to record duets unless the users change the setting by themselves.
“The groundbreaking changes announced today mark the next step in our mission to ensure TikTok is a safe platform for all our users,” said Alexandra Evans, TikTok’s European head of child safety. “They build on previous changes we’ve made to promote minor safety, including restricting direct messaging and hosting livestreams to [users aged] 16 and over and enabling parents and caregivers to set guardrails for their teen’s TikTok account through our Family Pairing feature.”
“We know there is no finish line when it comes to minor safety, and that is why we are continuously evolving our policies and investing in our technology and human-moderation teams so that TikTok remains a safe place for all our users to express their creativity.”
The changes were welcomed by NSPCC. “This is a bold package of measures by TikTok and a hugely welcome step that will reduce opportunities for groomers to contact children. It comes as abusers are taking advantage of the pandemic to target children spending more time online, and we urge other platforms to be similarly proactive rather than wait for regulation to come into effect. The full benefits of these changes will be felt when age assurance measures are put in place in September when the age appropriate design code comes into force,” said Andy Burrows, the charity’s head of child safety online policy.
The accounts of tens of millions of TikTok’s young userbase will be affected by the changes and, according to analysts, also shows that the company is not averse to restricting some of its most popular features as the company is comfortable with the fact that such changes could potentially result in teens leaving the app and choosing those of competitors such as Snapchat and Instagram.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)