TikTok Launches Global Youth Council Amid Scrutiny Over Child Safety

TikTok Launches Global Youth Council Amid Scrutiny Over Child Safety
Cover Image Source: Online Child Safety | Unsplash | Photo by Collabstr

TikTok has launched a Youth Council to engage young user perspectives to develop safety features. The company's official blog highlighted new research on the shared desire of both teenagers and parents for increased collaboration with online platforms concerning online safety. This initiative arrives amidst accusations of child safety breaches against TikTok across multiple regions. Criticisms have targeted TikTok's addictive algorithm, design, and content exposure to children. With the introduction of the new program, the company aims to address parental concerns by incorporating teenagers' input into decision-making processes, aiming to enhance its safety policies.



 

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What is TikTok’s Youth Council?

TikTok announced that the Youth Council was created in partnership with Praesidio Safeguarding, a specialist online safety agency. The council comprises fifteen teens aged between fifteen and eighteen, representing a range of communities and countries, including the US, UK, Ireland, Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, and Morocco.

According to its blog, the group first met in December 2023 and recently completed its second meeting, attended by TikTok CEO, Shou Chew. During the meeting, the teenagers contributed insights to TikTok's Youth Portal, advocating for improved access to reporting and blocking mechanisms to gain a better understanding of the platform's management of user reports.



 

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According to the company, the council has established its priorities for 2024, emphasizing teen well-being and inclusion to ensure TikTok maintains its status as "a safe and inclusive environment for young individuals to express themselves authentically."

TikTok’s Troubles with Safety

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Recently, Forbes reported that the European Commission has initiated a formal investigation into TikTok, expressing concerns regarding the protection of minors and its potentially addictive design. The investigation aims to assess whether the platform complies with its obligations under the Digital Services Act, particularly focusing on whether its algorithms contribute to behavioral addictions or "rabbit hole effects."

Under Europe's DSA, companies found in breach of the regulation may face fines of up to 6% of their global turnover. Furthermore, Bloomberg estimates that a 6% fine for TikTok could amount to approximately $564 million.



 

In the UK last year, The Information Commissioner’s Office imposed a fine of approximately £12,700,000 (equivalent to $16 million) on TikTok for multiple violations of data protection regulations, notably for unlawfully handling children’s data.

According to the ICO's findings, the company permitted as many as 1.4 million children under the age of thirteen in the UK to use its platform in 2020, despite its policy prohibiting users below that age from creating accounts.

This penalty from the ICO followed a significant ruling in Ireland, where the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) fined TikTok roughly €345 million (about $374.4 million) for GDPR violations related to children's data.



 

In the U.S., the House of Representatives recently passed a bill requiring TikTok to divest its entire stake to a U.S.-based company or risk a complete ban within the country. Lawmakers expressed concerns over national security and data protection, motivating the bill's passage.

The legislation is currently under Senate review, with a focus on assessing its compatibility with the First Amendment Act. Moreover, President Joe Biden has indicated readiness to sign the bill if it receives Senate approval.

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