With nearly a billion active monthly users worldwide, TikTok is a wildly popular social networking app for creating and sharing short videos.
However, TikTok became known as a “hunting ground” for predators, as the platform enabled easy access to children to be groomed, abused, and trafficked by strangers. Exploiters utilized TikTok to view minor users, comment on videos, and message children, often requesting or sending sexually explicit videos or pictures.
After being named to the 2020 Dirty Dozen List and meeting with NCOSE, TikTok implemented several of our recommendations to significantly improve their safety features for minors, such as disabling direct messaging for those under 16 and allowing parents to lock controls with a pin code. TikTok also released extensive Community Guidelines, clearly defining terms and listing activities and content prohibited on their platform, including content that “depicts, promotes, or glorifies” prostitution or pornography, content that simulates sexual activity (either verbally, in text, or even through emojis), or non-consensual sex.
While these changes are certainly encouraging, it remains to be seen how well new policies will be put into practice. We remain concerned about the extent of harmful content still accessible by young users – including advertising for pornography and prostitution sites – and believe there is still more TikTok could do to protect youth using their platform.
Tell TikTok to keep up the trend of protecting kids: take action below!
While the improved controls and defaults to the TikTok platform have likely made the app safer for kids, there is still an abundance of content on TikTok that could be harmful to minors and that normalizes the commercial sexual exploitation industry.
We trust that TikTok continues its recent trend of increased responsibility and accountability – creating a safer online platform for all users. Specifically we ask that TikTok:
- Enforce policies and Community Guidelines consistently and thoroughly
- Default “Restricted Mode” for all minors
- Provide caretakers and minors more resources to manage their accounts and enhance safety, such as prompts upon account-creation and embedded PSAs throughout the app to teach users to identify and report inappropriate or abusive behavior (sextortion, sexual harassment, grooming, etc.)
- Develop algorithms that detect age-lying by minors, as well as adults
- Improve processes to assess reports and proactively find and block (permanently) abusive and exploitative accounts, content, and hashtags, including those promoting the commercial sex industry
- Adjust Apple App rating from 12+ to 17+ and Google Play from “Teen” to “Mature” to more accurately reflect the content on TikTok
Review Safety Tips for Your Kids
While TikTok has insufficient safety controls, there are initial steps you can take to protect your children, including setting accounts on private, limit comments, and more. You can learn more about these options on Common Sense Media.
Tweet at TikTok Executives
Tell TikTok to fix their policies and practices to make their app safe – send a tweet to their company and executives!
Protected: Stay updated on these projects
February 9, 2021 is the global observance of Safer Internet Day. Safer Internet Day focuses on the idea that everyone plays an important role in making the internet better. To protect children online, and create a space where all are free from the harms of sexual abuse and exploitation, we all—families, corporations, governments—play an important…
In January 2021, TikTok announced several enhanced privacy and safety settings for minors, making it more difficult for children to be groomed, sexually exploited, or abused through this extremely popular platform. TikTok’s announcement states “As young people start their digital journey, we believe it’s important to provide them with age-appropriate privacy settings and controls.” We couldn’t agree more. Since the…
White House Press Secretary Says Administration “Would Take a Close Look” at Requiring Rules for Safety on TikTok Washington, DC (August 5, 2020) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is urging that any action enabling TikTok to continue operating in the U.S. must require additional safeguards to protect children from online predators. Yesterday,…
*This blog is the second in a series for Internet Safety Month 2020. The first part covers current actions NCOSE supports in order to fight for internet safety. This second part covers progress that still needs to be made on this front.* As designated by the U.S Senate, June is National Internet Safety Month in…
Just a few weeks after our public announcement about TikTok being named to the 2020 Dirty Dozen List, the social media company announced that they would soon begin rolling out improvements to TikTok’s safety features—including some updates we had been advocating for them to make! Although there are still several safety improvements they need to…
Share Your Story
It can be painful to share stories of sexual exploitation or harm, and sometimes it’s useful to focus on personal healing first. But for many, sharing their past or current experiences may be a restorative and liberating process. This is a place for those who want to express their story.