- TikTok has been fined £12.7 million ($US15.9 million) in the UK for allowing underage users to access the platform, the first significant enforcement under new British rules designed to protect minors online.
- The UK regulatory authorities informed TikTok of the investigation in September 2020, urging the company to improve its procedures to comply with the updated regulations.
- TikTok has implemented new rules that require all users to verify their age, and users under 13 are now redirected to a separate, more restricted in-app experience.
- TikTok has 28 days to appeal the penalty.
TikTok has been met with further challenges as it has been fined £12,700,000 ($US15.9 million) in the UK for its failure to prevent minors from accessing and utilizing its short-form video app.
According to the UK Information Commissioner, the fine was imposed on TikTok for its negligence in adhering to the stipulated regulations.
ICO has issued a £12,700,000 fine to TikTok Information Technologies UK Limited and TikTok Inc (TikTok) for a number of breaches of data protection law, including failing to use children’s personal data lawfully. The ICO estimates that TikTok allowed up to 1.4 million UK children under 13 to use its platform in 2020, despite its own rules not allowing children that age to create an account.
This penalty is the first significant enforcement under the new regulations put in place in the UK to safeguard minors online. The UK regulatory authorities had informed TikTok about the investigation in September last year, while also urging the company to enhance its procedures to comply with the updated regulations.
The initial fine proposed was reported to be around £27 million, but the amount was substantially reduced following further negotiations. The announcement of this fine signifies the culmination of the investigation, with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) seeking to establish a precedent with its action.
The penalty imposed is considerably more substantial than the fine that TikTok was previously issued in the US for comparable violations.
This is not TikTok’s first headache
In 2019, TikTok was fined $US5.7 million for collecting data on minors in the US who had accessed the platform without parental consent. In response, TikTok implemented new regulations requiring all users to verify their age, and users under 13 are now redirected to a separate, more restricted in-app experience that restricts who can view and comment on their content and send them direct messages.
Despite TikTok’s efforts to add more tools and detection processes to address the issue of underage users, many youngsters are still signing up for the app. However, retrospective breaches are still punishable, and as a result, TikTok is obligated to pay this latest fine.
This is a critical area of concern given the platform’s popularity among younger audiences. According to internal data released by The New York Times in 2020, around one-third of TikTok’s user base was 14 years old or younger. While this may have changed since then, it still emphasizes the potential scope of the problem.
TikTok has previously faced various investigations over this issue, which have resulted in temporary bans in some regions due to the platform’s content. Additionally, TikTok has come under scrutiny over its dangerous viral trends, with several underage users suffering fatalities after attempting to participate in risky activities as a result of their exposure on the app.
Enforcing actions against TikTok to address this problem and mitigate the risks of exposure on the app seem necessary, given the potential magnitude of the issue. Although TikTok is endeavoring to enhance its systems, greater significance must be placed on this aspect to ensure better compliance in the future. TikTok has 28 days to appeal the penalty.