CHILD abuse campaigners have called for TikTok to be banned in the UK after it perverts reportedly caught grooming kids on the site were only handed one-week suspensions.
Disgusted parents and campaigners have previously warned the app is a “magnet for paedophiles” after The Sun Online revealed children as young as eight were being targeted by predators and bombarded with sexually explicit messages.
Leaked documents have now revealed TikTok only suspended users for a week if they were caught messaging children in a sexual manner.
That increased to a month for a second offence and then eventually a permanent ban when they were reported for a third time.
Former moderators at TikTok told The Daily Telegraph this meant paedophiles were allowed back on the app with the same accounts, potentially allowing them to continue grooming children.
Former moderators at the app said they were each told to prioritise monitoring up to 1,000 videos a day, rather than regularly checking reported messages.
One ex-moderator said that while they had to view flagged videos within 15 minutes, reported messages would sometimes not be seen for days, with the backlog sometimes reaching more than 1,000.
Former employees estimated around one in 10 messages flagged was due to adults messaging kids inappropriately and one ex-employee said that when they went into children’s accounts they sometimes saw as many as 10 different adults messaging them.
The Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, an umbrella group for child protection organisations, called for a ban on TikTok from the UK.
However Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had no plans to ban the app.
TikTok Time Bomb
TikTok has spread like digital wildfire, snapping up over 1.5 billion users since its global launch three years ago — including millions in the UK.
On the surface, the world’s fastest growing social media platform shows short clips of lip-syncing to songs or showing off dance moves but there’s a far more sinister side.
It’s become a magnet for paedophiles as well as a hotbed for violent and extremist content, with TikTok predators exploiting the platform’s young user base and lax security to prey on the vulnerable.
We’ve seen kids as young as eight being groomed on TikTok, while other creeps take advantage of young girls posting sexualised content of themselves on the platform.
And that’s especially worrying on a site which is attracting millions more children every year, with 53 per cent of kids now owning a smartphone by the age of seven.
That’s why we launched our TikTok Time Bomb series — to make sure parents are aware of the risks their kids are being exposed to, and what they can do to better protect them.
Everyone agrees social media can be a force for good, but it has to be used the right way and with proper controls in place.
We want TikTok to better moderate its content so that it’s not being left to kids to protect themselves online.
It comes as it emerged TikTok was considering London as its global HQ but is reconsidering because of tensions between the UK and Beijing.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has been in discussions with officials from the Department for International Trade and No 10 to establish a worldwide base in Britain, creating 3,000 jobs.
However The Sunday Times reported ByteDance has made the decision to suspend those negotiations due to the “wider geopolitical context”.
It comes amid increasing tensions between London and Beijing, stemming from the UK Government’s criticism of the Hong Kong security law and the recent decision to ban Huawei from the country’s 5G network.
The Sun Online has previously reported how kids, often dressed in their school uniform, have been messaged by creepy strangers underneath videos of them performing to music.
TikTok, which has been downloaded more than a billion times in 150 countries, is meant for those aged 13 and over. But it’s simple for users to lie about their age.
Last year the Sun Online launched a TikTok Time Bomb series – to raise awareness of the risks and urge the site to be better moderated so kids are not left to protect themselves online.
Campaigners have warned of the risks of young people falling prey to paedophiles on the app.
Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of child safety online policy, previously told the Sun Online: “Serious questions need to be asked about TikTok’s moderation practices if users are able to freely post sexually suggestive comments to children.”
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In response to the leaked documents detailing the company’s policy for users found messaging children, TikTok said it has a “zero tolerance” approach to child abuse and the policies described by former moderators had since been updated.
A spokesman for TikTok told the Telegraph: “Keeping people on TikTok safe is a top priority. Many of the claims brought to our attention refer to outdated practices, policies and processes that are no longer in place.
“We have a zero-tolerance response on child sexual abuse material and direct messaging is disabled for all under-16 users.
“All explicit and suspected grooming behaviours detected in direct messaging are escalated in a timely manner to our internal Child Safety Team based in Dublin to investigate the account.
“In line with best-practice international standards, we report all necessary information to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children or law enforcement, and ban the offending user.”
Take control of TikTok – change these settings now
Parents should do the following immediately…
- Head into Settings > Privacy and Safety and look for the Discoverability heading at the top.
- Under that you’ll see a setting called Private Account. Toggle this on.
- TikTok recommends your page to lots of other users to improve video circulation.
- Switch the setting off and the account will no longer be recommended to other users.
Shut out weirdos:
- In Privacy and Safety > Safety, you can prevent other users from interacting with you.
- Most of the settings are on Everyone by default, but can be changed to Friends or Off.
- You can prevent interactions on comments, Duets, Reacts, users seeing which videos you’ve liked, and also messages.
Restricted Mode ON:
- Restricted Mode tries to limit age-inappropriate content from appearing for children.
- It’s not perfect, and works through using computer-scanning systems – so some dodgy content will inevitably be missed.
- It’s also possible to set a passcode to prevent your child from changing this setting later on.
- You’ll find this in Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Screen Time Management.
Family Safety Mode:
- This setting lets you assign accounts as ‘Parent’ or ‘Teen’, giving you remote control over a child’s TikTok access.
- You can set watch time limits, exclude inappropriate content and limit who can send messages.
- It’s possible to do this from your own smartphone, so you can make sure your child is as protected as possible from anywhere.
- This setting is in Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Family Safe Mode.
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