DUBAI: Video-sharing social media company TikTok has announced new privacy and safety changes for users under the age of 18.
In the past, TikTok has been under scrutiny due to its privacy and safety settings for children on the platform.
In early 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined the company $5.7 million for violating US children’s privacy laws.
Last month, US federal regulators ordered TikTok to disclose how its practices affect children and teenagers.
The company will now set the accounts for users aged 13-15 to private by default, and tighten other controls for all under-18s in terms of how they can interact with other users and content on the app.
With a private TikTok account, only someone who the user approves as a follower can view their videos.
Users under the age of 16 can select who comments on their videos from one of two options: Friends or no one. The “everyone” setting for comments is being removed entirely. Their videos also cannot be downloaded by other users.
But other users can decide if they want to allow downloads of their videos, with the default setting for users aged 16-17 being “off.”
For users aged 13-15, the default setting for suggesting their account to others will be turned off.
TikTok has implemented other measures for younger audiences in the past, which include restricting direct messaging and hosting live streams to accounts of users aged 16 and over; restricting the buying, sending and receiving of virtual gifts to users aged 18 and over; and enabling parental controls through the Family Pairing feature.
But with some estimates showing that 60 percent of its users are aged 16-24, it is important for the app to continue to fine-tune existing features and introduce new measures to ensure that it provides a safe environment for young audiences.
“There is no finish line when it comes to protecting users and their privacy, and TikTok’s investment in this important area won’t stop here,” the company said in a statement.
“The platform will continue to evolve their policies, work closely with regulators and experts in minor safety, and invest in technology and human-moderation teams so that TikTok remains a safe place for everyone to express their creativity.”