Finally, a little over four years late, TikTok decided to change the default privacy options for accounts of underage users. This is a problem that many of us have criticized for, and evidence that it has not taken its responsibility.
From now on, all accounts for minors under the age of 16 are private by default, so the videos they upload can no longer be downloaded by third parties. Only previously approved commentators can comment on it, and its content cannot be suggested or recommended to other users. Third parties are not allowed to automatically download videos from the accounts of 16 and 17 year olds. Approval is required for this. In addition, third parties cannot use duets and similar functions for children under the age of 16, while 16 and 17 year olds must explicitly activate this. In addition, some options regarding the supervision of underage accounts by the adults responsible for them are reinforced.
The new restrictions are very important for a network that is used by many minors on a daily basis. In the United States, an estimated one-third of users are under the age of 18, and the parameters of the application not only made this possible, but practically encouraged the occurrence of behaviors considered dangerous, such as: B. Grooming, sexting, harassment and other sexual abuse behaviors. The mechanics of the application, together with the functioning of its recommendation algorithms, resulted in many adults with pedophile tendencies constantly receiving recommendations for highly sexualized videos of minors. This created a feedback loop where kids realized that their more explicit videos scored the highest success metrics.
The changes to TikTok’s privacy options for minors came shortly after a study by the UK Current Affairs Program Panorama for the BBC revealed what we all knew: The platform claimed it had a zero-tolerance policy on child abuse and exploitation while in reality everyone could freely communicate with minors about it.
When did TikTok finally decide to do something to protect one of its most important user segments? Many years after it was repeatedly complained and examined, and already gained a clearly advantageous position in terms of popularity. The new rules make it clear in every way what the previous situation was like and that TikTok has so far not been concerned: in fact, the lack of controls and its ambiguous stance have contributed to its popularity.
I welcome the changes. But you should also highlight how some companies have been allowed to ignore core principles in their quest for popularity. Despite having been sanctioned several times and in several countries for more than four years – the period of greatest growth – it refused to acknowledge the danger it faced its youngest users. The next time we see such irresponsible behavior on a social network, I hope we can get it under control a little faster.