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TikTok Is Falling off

Social Media Platform TikTok Faces $368 Million Fine

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

TikTok, a popular video-sharing platform that people of all ages rely on for entertainment, is currently facing a 368 million dollar fine (roughly 345 million euros) by European Union regulators. 

On Friday, Sept. 15, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) issued the fine because of TikTok’s failure to regulate the underage users on the app. TikTok has an age limit of 13 years old, and their measures to verifying users age was not found to have any violations. However, the DPC did find violations regarding TikTok’s parental control feature, as well as European data privacy laws. 

Moreover, concerns have been raised by the DPC that TikTok doesn’t properly protect children under 13 on the app. Though TikTok claims to have privacy rules regarding children under 13, these privacy rules don’t clarify whether children can appear in videos posted by adults. 

“I do [think TikTok should have an age limit] just because [of] children,” sophomore Mya Champion said. “They have no filter and they have no idea what they’re doing and like, they’re just doing things to be popular or get approval and they don’t realize the danger they’re putting themselves in. If their parents aren’t monitoring them, there’s nothing else that can stop them.” 

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) is the national independent supervisory authority in Ireland, responsible for handling and protecting sensitive data on platforms such as TikTok with the power to conduct an inquiry which can lead to fines or other corrective powers. Following an investigation in late 2020, the DPC determined that TikTok’s settings were not protecting children's safety on the app because children’s profiles were set to public by default and anybody could view them. The DPC also found that TikTok’s “Family Pairing” feature is a violation of European Union laws. TikTok introduced their “Family Pairing” in April 2020, allowing parents to link their accounts to their children's accounts in order to manage screen time, restrict unwanted content and limit direct messaging. The issue with this feature, however, was that “Family Pairing” didn’t verify that the person overseeing the child’s account was actually a parent or guardian. These violations led to the DPC imposing the fine. 

“First of all, I think it's going to be in the responsibility of the parents to monitor what their kids are viewing or have access to, because at the end of the day, TikTok is not going to care about what a child is seeing in their own home,” upper school Spanish teacher Caroline Scheer said. “So, even though, you know, laws may be enforced or fines can be enforced, ultimately it’s probably the responsibility of the parent to monitor what their child has access to because larger companies have a different end goal than protection of minors.”

Maclay students tend to agree with the fine given and believe that children need more protection on social media. 

“It is very important to protect children on social media, and I do not believe TikTok does that,” junior Gabby Dattoli said. “It’s so easy to lie about your age and all of that, and it's just, at this point, it's futile even putting in your birthday. And we already know that TikTok takes data and everything, like they take your personal information and sell it. So kids are not being protected at all.”

Unsurprisingly, Elaine Fox, TikTok’s head of privacy in Europe responded in objection to the fine in a statement released Sept. 15 on the TikTok website. 

“Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) today announced the findings of its investigation relating to certain platform settings and age assurance measures we had in place three years ago,” Fox said. “We respectfully disagree with several aspects of the decision, particularly the level of the fine, and we want to provide some important context while we evaluate next steps." 

The rest of Fox’s statement outlines the measures they plan to take to improve on child protection features, however, the concern about TikTok's methods of protecting children's privacy remains. The DPC has given TikTok three months to correct the violations. 

“I do think it’s important to protect children on social media because, again, they have no idea what they’re doing,” Champion said. “They’re just like, ‘Oh I want a TikTok’ but they don’t realize they’re putting themselves in danger because there are so many predators on the internet, and I don’t think TikTok is doing it [protecting children] right now. Like, the amount of 10-year-old kids I’ve seen doing things they should not be doing is not okay.”


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Andy Poll

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