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Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

TikTok will raise the minimum age for in-app purchases for its popular social media app this month as it faces growing congressional scrutiny.

The big picture: TikTok is taking hits on fronts ranging from concerns about Chinese control and censorship to safeguarding children's privacy.

Driving the news: TikTok is rolling out a new policy that will require users to be at least 18 years old to buy, send or receive virtual gifts.

  • The previous minimum age for in-app purchases was 13. Users have to be at least 16 years old to host a livestream where the gifts are exchanged.
  • TikTok allows fans to send video makers digital gifts, like emojis, that can be turned into cash.
  • "We are making these changes to foster a safe environment where users of all ages can enjoy a live-stream without encountering misuse, such as any pressure to send virtual gifts," Eric Han, TikTok head of safety, said in a blog post.

Background: A BBC News investigation in July found that some video makers offered perks like sharing their phone number in exchange for virtual gifts, with children as young as 11 paying hundreds of dollars.

  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) pressed TikTok on children's privacy practices in a November letter, accusing the company of manipulating children's online purchases.
  • TikTok outlined its policy changes in a response to Blackburn last week.
  • TikTok head Alex Zhu is expected to meet with Blackburn next week, according to a person with knowledge of the plans.
“Currently on TikTok, children can falsify their age to make in-app purchases and live stream videos. It is encouraging to see TikTok heed my concerns regarding teenagers’ ability to use their platform, but more must be done."
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.