June 13, 2021

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TikTok Hires Expert Panel To Improve Child Protection In Europe

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TikTok has created a Safety Advisory Council for Europe, made up of external experts on child safety, mental health and extremism.

The move is designed to allay concerns about the safety of young people on the platform, and follows the creation of a Content Advisory Council in the US this time last year.

That council was focused largely on preventing election disinformation and ensuring data protection within the Chinese-owned company. In the case of the new European organisation, though, the emphasis will be on young people’s safety and mental health.

“Each member brings a different, fresh perspective on the challenges we face and members will provide subject matter expertise as they advise on our content moderation policies and practices,” says Julie de Bailliencourt, head of product policy, EMEA.

“Not only will they support us in developing forward-looking policies that address the challenges we face today, they will also help us to identify emerging issues that affect TikTok and our community in the future.”

The nine members include the CEOs of several young people’s charities and support programs across Europe, as well as Ethel Quayle, professor of forensic clinical psychology at the University of Edinburgh and Judy Korn, CEO of the German organisation Violence Prevention Network and Robin Sclafani, director at A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe (CEJi).

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TikTok says it plans to add more members over time.

The creation of the council is intended to answer criticism of the platform, which is already subject to legal action.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), for example, recently lodged complaints with the EU and European data protection agencies, claiming that TikTok is guilty of multiple breaches of EU consumer rights, and that it fails to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.

“TikTok is letting its users down by breaching their rights on a massive scale,” says Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC. “Children love TikTok but the company fails to keep them protected.”

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Information Commissioner is already examining how TikTok handles young people’s personal data, and in Italy the company has been ordered to re-verify the age of all users in the country to weed out under-13s.

The company will also soon be expected to comply with the EU’s planned Digital Services Act, aimed at improving user protection in terms of content moderation, online targeted advertising and the recommender systems used by online platforms.

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