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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

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two assault rifles believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.