TikTok has agreed to improve protection for children


Under pressure from the European Commission, ByteDance, owner of the video-sharing app TikTok, has agreed to do more to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.

The Chinese-owned company fell under the spotlight in February last year after the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) complained that it had failed to comply with unfair trade practices guidelines, consumer rights guidelines and unfair contract terms.

But it has now agreed to a number of changes, most notably allowing users to report ads and offers that could potentially push or deceive children into buying products or services.

There is a new policy for branded content, which prohibits the promotion of inappropriate products and services such as alcohol, the ‘get rich quick’ scheme and cigarettes.

Other changes include the introduction of a toggle that users are asked to turn on when they publish captioned content with specific brand-related keywords, such as #ad or #sponsored; And if a user has more than 10,000 followers, their videos will be reviewed against TikTok’s branded content policy and community guidelines to determine if the content is relevant.

Paid ads will be marked with a new label, the effectiveness of which will be tested by third parties, and users will be able to report unpublished branded content, and new rules for hashtags and labels will be applied.

Finally, there are more explanations on how to purchase and use coins, how to get rewards from TikTok, and how to send gifts.

“All social media platforms need to adhere to the rules and ensure that consumers can easily identify commercial content, including those promoted by influencers,” said Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.

“We welcome TikTok’s commitment to greater transparency in the conduct of its business activities. Thanks to our dialogue, consumers will be able to see all the types of advertising they encounter when using this platform.”

BEUC, however, believes that the steps do not go far enough. TikTok’s copyright clause, it says, still gives the platform an over-the-counter license to use content created and posted by its users.

It is also concerned about the lack of protection against abuse by influential people when buying TikTok ‘virtual coins for young users; And, it says, TikTok has failed to deliver on its promise to stop profiling and targeting children through personalized ads.

The BEUC deputy said, “We are particularly concerned that personalized advertising will not stop ticking off profiling and targeting children. This conflicts with the five child protection policies adopted by the Data Protection and Consumer Protection Authority last week.” Director General Ursula Patchal.

“We now urge the authorities to closely monitor TikTok’s activities and take national enforcement action if it does not deliver on its promises. This is certainly not the end of the story. BEUC and our members will keep a close eye on developments.”

In a report earlier this year, UK regulator Ofcom found that half of British children, 16 per cent between the ages of three and four, used the platform – despite an official minimum age of 13.

The commission said it plans to monitor TikTok, and in particular the way child users operate. Its main concern, it says, is the kids’ understanding of the commercial aspects of tic-tac-toe practice, such as personalized advertising.

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