Video-sharing app TikTok has introduced an age gate feature for new users, which will only allow those aged 13 years and above to create an account, the company said in a press release on Monday. TikTok, owned by China’s Bytedance, also declared that it has removed more than six million videos that were in violation of its community guidelines, since July 2018. TikTok claims that its content moderation strategy combines content moderation technology with a human moderation team to effectively police offending content. This team is said to be based in more than 20 countries, including India, and covers major Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati.
The app was banned by the Madras High Court earlier this month, chiefly on the ground that it posed a danger to children. In February, TikTok was fined $5.7 million by the US Federal Trade Commission for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information of children below 13 years without parental consent.
The Madras HC ban
Earlier this month, the Madras High Court directed the Indian government to ban the download of TikTok, as an interim measure, to prevent new users from downloading the app. It directed the media to stop showcasing videos from TikTok, and the Government of India enact a law on the lines of USA’s COPPA. It said the app contained “degrading culture”, and that it encouraged pornography and pedophilia. We argued that the ban seems to be a disproportionate act of censorship by the HC. As of April 15, the app remains available for download on Google’s Play Store.
TikTok’s push for user safety
This has been the latest in a slew of safety-related features and announcements from the company over the past few weeks. The statement references an in-app notification containing a public service announcement to remind users to behave responsibly during the election season. In March, the company announced that its ‘Safety Centre’ – a resource that gives users tools and information to protect themselves online – was available in 10 major Indian languages – Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Oriya. The web page was also updated to include a section on India’s general elections. In it, TikTok asked users to use the app “in a respectful and responsible way”, refrain from sharing unlawful content, and report any such content using the cVIGIL app, developed by Election Commission of India.