TikTok claims to take 'grooming' and online sex predators preying for underage girls with zero tolerance. The app features a plethora of parental safety features and won't let anyone send a DM (Direct Message) to a user below 16. But is TikTok safe really?
Unfortunately, everyone can still find their workaround to lie about their ages.
In the newest episode of Panorama, BBC investigates the truth behind TikTok's 'safety' code. To do so, the team teams up with a 23-year-old journalist. She posed as a 14-year-old on the account created for the program.
Several creeps have slid into the DM. One of them, a 34-year-old, even blatantly and sexually asked if she wanted to see his private part. He backed off after the "child" told him she's underage.
The sexual messages were sent to TikTok through the app's complaint system. Still, it took the company a full three days and a direct complaint from the BBC to finally take down the man's account. Another two accounts with sexual innuendos were also taken down by the company.
Catch up with the latest Panorama investigative episode here.
The Alarming Concern
Although the company vows to aggressively hunt down Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), the tools its app provides is still far from perfect. The concern was raised after TikTok announced that it would stop using content moderators and rely on its algorithm instead.
A former employee, who shall remain nameless, told the BBC that the algorithm lets users freely explore contents they're interested in.
"If you're looking at a lot of kids dancing sexually and you interact with that, it's going to give you more kids dancing sexually," the anonymous said.
"Maybe it's a predator... they see these kids doing that and that's their way of engaging with these kids."
How to Be Safe On TikTok?
TikTok claimed to have a team of over 10,000 experts in 20 countries who review users' contents and accounts that violate its policies. Besides, the app also features an automated tool to screen the contents.
TikTok users who lie about their ages mostly seek a much wider audience because the app automatically limits who can view contents from an under-16 user.
Being safe on TikTok requires the two parties, both parents and children, to collaborate.
Parents can either choose between scanning their phones and their children through TikTok. This will let the parents' devices to monitor their children's viewed contents and approve the messages. Or, parents can also set their children's Restricted Mode with a password.
Either way, things are not looking so neat at TikTok, and the video-sharing platform still has so many questions left to answer.