Protection of minors: TikTok targeted by a report to the US Department of Justice

Protection of minors: TikTok targeted by a report to the US Department of Justice
Protection of minors: TikTok targeted by a report to the US Department of Justice

The American Consumer Protection Agency, the FTC, indicated on Tuesday that it had made a report to the Department of Justice concerning TikTok for possible violation of the law protecting minors on the internet.

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The FTC explains that it initiated a follow-up investigation to ensure that the platform respected the conditions of an amicable agreement reached in 2019, according to a press release posted on its site.

At the time, the Agency criticized TikTok’s ancestor, Musical.ly, for having unduly collected the personal data of minor users.

TikTok had agreed to pay $5.7 million in compensation and undertook to comply with the provisions of the so-called COPPA law (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), adopted in 1998.

The checks initiated by the FTX “gave it reason to believe that” TikTok and its parent company, the Chinese group ByteDance, “have broken or are in the process of breaking the law.”

The FTC notes that it generally does not publicly report a report to the Department of Justice. She said she considered it “in the public interest” to do so in this case.

In a message posted on X (formerly Twitter), TikTok said it was “disappointed that the agency chose litigation rather than continuing to work with us to reach a reasonable solution.”

“We strongly disagree with the FTC’s accusations, many of which relate to past events and practices that are misrepresented or have already been covered,” the social network continues.

TikTok says it has “strict safeguards” in place and suspends user accounts when it suspects they are under the minimum age requirement of 13.

The FTC’s communication comes the day after the publication, in the New York Times, of an article by the chief medical officer of the United States, Doctor Vivek Murthy, calling on social networks to clearly display “a message of prevention” on their platforms “to alert of the significant dangers they represent for the mental health of adolescents”.

During a hearing in the House of Representatives in March 2023, TikTok boss Shou Chew came under fire from questions about TikTok’s responsibility regarding the mental and physical health of young people.

“Your company has destroyed their lives,” declared Florida Republican elected official Gus Bilirakis, pointing to the parents of a teenager who committed suicide, who came to attend the hearing.

They filed a complaint against the social network, which they accuse of having shown thousands of unsolicited videos on suicide to their son.

TikTok is facing several civil proceedings brought for having insufficiently protected minors who use its platform.

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