TikTok May Have Violated COPPA, With Its Large Group Of Under-Age Users

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TikTok has always been popular with the younger generation. But according to a report from The New York Times, it appears that nearly a third of TikTok US users are very young, 14 years or younger.

This can pose a number of other issues for TikTok, and make it even tougher for ByteDance to sell the app.

You must be 13 years old to use TikTok

According to TikTok's terms and conditions, you have to be at least 13 years of age to use the app. But that doesn't mean that younger users aren't using the app.

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Since TikTok has users self-report their age, it can be very easy to say you're older than you are. TikTok also uses facial recognition to estimate user ages. But as we've seen recently, facial recognition is really not that great. Especially when it comes to black and brown people.

There is a walled off version of the app, for those that are under 13. TikTok also doesn't ask for consent from guardians, and videos do slip through the cracks.

A former TikTok employee also told the publication that videos of children who appeared to be younger than 14 were allowed to remain on the app for weeks.

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Why would that make a buyer think twice?

This is going to make a buyer think twice, because the government may start looking into whether TikTok is doing enough to protect its young users.

You see, those that are under 18 are generally more protected than adults, by regulations. And we already know that TikTok has had a hard time keeping user data from going to Chinese servers, and not collecting data it shouldn't be. It recently was caught collecting users MAC addresses.

If TikTok is found to have violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA, it could be hit with some heavy fines. And whoever purchases the app, could be hit with those fines. What makes it worse, is that TikTok already knows this. It paid $5.7 million over COPPA violations from musical.ly (the original app, that was rebranded into TikTok when ByteDance bought it).

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President Trump has made an ultimatum that TikTok must sell its US operations before September 15, or it will be banned from the US. Considering the US is the company's third largest market (and it's already banned in its largest market), that won't be great news for TikTok.

You can pretty much guarantee that Congress will be looking into whether TikTok violated COPPA, very soon.