The 15-second music video application Tik Tok was the fourth most downloaded social application last year, but it proved to be a difficult year for the Chinese network. In April the platform was fined $5.7 million for collecting data from children, the highest civil penalty ever imposed by the Federal Trade Commission in a child privacy case. In Tik Tok, children and teenagers are looking for their own space, and nothing bothers them more than having to share a social network with their parents. In fact, according to Digiday data, 60% of users are between 16 and 24 years old, although it is clear that there are millions of younger users. Networks that have not been massively colonised by the adult public are particularly attractive to children and adolescents, who perceive them as a genuinely personal environment without parental interference or supervision.
The age of Tik Tok users, a serious problem without control
Between music videos, duets and challenges, it is difficult to get bored in a network with so many creative options and with a language more typical of the Z and later generations. According to the experts, in Tik Tok there are teenagers (over 13 years old), pre-teens (from 11 to 13) and children (under 10 years old). The problem with this network is the difficulty of verifying the real age of the users, a problem that affects all social networks, but in the case of Tik Tok it is aggravated by the high percentage of underage users who use this network.
Once logged in, you can start posting videos of yourself that other users will later see, and any of them will be able to send a message to the author of the video directly. This network, which has not yet managed to become part of the Global Internet Forum, an association that promotes good use of the Internet, is being investigated in the United Kingdom for fear that it is a “pedophile magnet”. In Tik Tok, aggressors and victims converge easily in the same cyberspace; it is easy for paedophiles to access and contact minors because they know it is a network that is widely used by them. The British newspaper The Sun investigated several cases of grooming in which 8-year-old children received threatening messages from adults in Tik Tok. This is known as child grooming, which consists of a series of deceptive attitudes and actions by an adult to gain the trust of a minor and thus obtain sexual favours.
For minors it is a space where they can play and socialize, they make playful use of the Internet without thinking that they can become victims. The problem is that they are handing over images and videos, which they cannot control once they leave their sphere, nor know where they are stored or on which servers, and to what extent there may be infiltrations by criminals or online paedophile networks.
Who monitors the content?
The lack of control over Tik Tok content is another major controversy. The social network was recently forced to delete more than 20 accounts related to the terrorist group ISIS. In these accounts, animated videos with music and emojis were shared, in which torture could be seen, which reached thousands of network users. The alarm was raised after The Wall Street Journal investigation. Tik Tok is undoubtedly interesting for jihadist terrorist groups because of the average age range of its users. They are particularly permeable audiences and it is a propaganda model already in use, which at one time was transmitted by WhatsApp, then by Telegram and now by Tik Tok.