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Chinese app TikTok accused of failing to protect children from inappropriate content

ANI | Updated: Feb 17, 2021 03:00 IST

Brussels [Belgium], February 17 (ANI): The European Consumer Organisation BEUC has filed complaints on Tuesday (local time) against Chinese-owned short video app TikTok over breaching European Union (EU) consumer rights and failing to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.
According to an official statement issued by the European Consumer Organisation BEUC, a complaint has been filed with the EU and the network of consumer protection authorities against TikTok.
Meanwhile, consumer organisations in as many as 15 countries have demanded their authorities to investigate TikTok's conduct.
The European Consumer Organisation has said that the social media app has failed to protect children and teenagers from hidden advertising and potentially harmful content on its platform.
"TikTok's marketing offers to companies who want to advertise on the app contributes to the proliferation of hidden marketing. Users are for instance triggered to participate in branded hashtag challenges where they are encouraged to create the content of specific products. As popular influencers are often the starting point of such challenges the commercial intent is usually masked for users. TikTok is also potentially failing to conduct due diligence when it comes to protecting children from inappropriate content such as videos showing suggestive content which are just a few scrolls away," the statement said.
It termed TikTok's practices for the processing of users' personal data as "misleading" as the app "does not inform its users, especially in a way comprehensible to children and teenagers, about what personal data is collected, for what purpose and for what legal reason".

It stated that one of TikTok's features is that the users can purchase coins that they can use for virtual gifts for TikTok celebrities whose performance they like.
"TikTok's 'Virtual Item Policy' which manages this feature contains "unfair terms and misleading practices". TikTok claims, for instance, an absolute right to modify the exchange rate between the coins and the gifts, potentially skewing the financial transaction in its own favour," the statement added.
In recent months, TikTok has come under flare for its policies.
Earlier, US lawmakers had raised concerns over potential risks to data collection. Donald Trump, then President, had even sought to overhaul how TikTok operated in the US, but the deal was left unfinished before he left office, The Hill stated.
Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki had said, "Broadly speaking, we are comprehensively evaluating ... risks to US data including from TikTok and will address them in a decisive and effective fashion."
However, unlike the US, Europe has stricter regulations on data privacy.
According to The Hill, under the General Data Protection Regulation law, which was implemented in 2018, companies are required to state what data is collected and for what purpose. (ANI)