Dec 3, 2019

Under fire, TikTok tweaks digital gift policy

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

TikTok chief delays Washington charm offensive

Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

TikTok head Alex Zhu canceled meetings with lawmakers who have raised concerns about the popular video-sharing app in Washington this week.

The big picture: The cancellation is fueling a fresh round of criticism from lawmakers who have already called out the Beijing-owned company over issues ranging from censorship to children's privacy.

Go deeperArrowDec 10, 2019

Report: TikTok weighs direct shopping for users

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

TikTok may add a direct shopping tool for users as it secures big advertisers like Walmart, Nike and Asos, the Financial Times reports.

The big picture: Blake Chandlee, vice president of global business solutions for TikTok, told FT that the app's current growth stage is "very similar" to when he joined Facebook in 2007.

Go deeperArrowDec 7, 2019

TikTok apologizes after deleting post on China's Uighur Muslims

A TikTok logo on a mobile device. Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

TikTok apologized on Wednesday for temporarily deleting a viral TikTok post that compared China's mass detention of Uighur Muslims to the Holocaust, citing a "human moderation error."

Why it matters: TikTok is trying to distance itself from its Chinese ownership amid recent reports that moderators have been told to censor videos that reference topics deemed off-limits by the Chinese Communist Party, and U.S. lawmakers' interest in probing the app for censorship.

Go deeperArrowNov 28, 2019