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  • Does Your Child TikTok? Beware Of Pedophiles, Unauthorized Personal Info Gathering

    The company paid 5.7 million US dollars after it was found to illegally collect kids' personal information.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
Does Your Child TikTok? Beware Of Pedophiles, Unauthorized Personal Info Gathering
PHOTO BY @Ridofranz/iStock
  • Tik...what??

    If you’re not familiar with it, TikTok is a social networking app that makes use of short videos users can lip-synch to for entertainment. For this reason, it has become very popular, with over 500 million active users worldwide as of October 2019, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. Because of the nature of its portal, statistics show that almost half of its users is composed of a young market — between 16 and 24 years old. 

    However, it is also because of this popularity that the app’s security features have been in question for a while now.

    In early 2019, a Facebook post by a mom went viral after she claimed that strangers were able to contact her daughter via text because she had the TikTok app installed on her phone. She wrote that someone from Verizon told her this was possible “even with her account being set to private.”  

    This claim, though, has already been proven inaccurate by the fact-checking website Snopes. They tested the app themselves and proved that a user’s personal details like phone number or email address can only be obtained by another individual if this information is shared by the user herself. 

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    And while this may give parents some peace of mind, there are other online dangers lurking in the background — pedophiles, in particular.

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    Former cyber safety expert Susan McLean of the Victoria Police Force in Australia told the Daily Mail, “TikTok is not a safe app and there are many concerns, not the least bullying and grooming by predators.” Pedophiles, or individuals who are perversely attracted sexually to children, are reportedly using it for their purpose. (In essence, however, this concern is present in any other social media application.). 

    In a three-month investigation in 2019, the BBC found hundreds of sexually explicit comments made on posts of children as young as 9 years old. 

    Some of these are:

    “thats what I’m talking bout now get into that bed...”

    “show me your bed so I can [erased]”

    “do you go all the way”

    “would love to get my hands [erased]”

    “These are individuals who are using these platforms to try to get access in some way to young children,” Anne Longfield, England’s Children’s Commissioner, says.

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    Many of these explicit comments (but not all) were eventually deleted by TikTok after being reported, but the accounts who made them were not suspended and remained active on the app.

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    In the United States, TikTok was fined $5.7M (close to 300 million Philippine Pesos) in 2019 after it was proven that the app illegally collects personal information of children under 13 years old who use the app. And although the minimum age requirement to join the app is 13, there are users who are as young as 9. 

    TikTok spoke about the issue by issuing the following statement:  

    “We are committed to continuously enhancing our existing measures and introducing additional technical and moderation processes in our ongoing commitment to our users.

    “We take escalating actions ranging from restricting certain features up to banning account access, based on the frequency and severity of the reported content. In addition, we have multiple proactive approaches that look for potentially problematic behaviour and take action including terminating accounts that violate our Terms of Service.”

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    Protecting your kids from online danger still remains in your hands: check online security settings, teach them to report inappropriate behavior, and discuss if there are any doubts.

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