TikTok accused of using hidden advertising, showing inappropriate content

TikTok, a short-lived, Chinese-owned video-sharing app, has had a month to respond to multiple complaints from EU consumer groups that it violated the bloc’s consumer laws and failed also failed to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.

TikTok Marketing is believed to make offers to businesses wishing to advertise on the app which contributes to the proliferation of hidden marketing. For example, users are encouraged to participate in branded hashtag challenges where they are encouraged to create content for specific products. As popular influencers are often the starting point for such challenges, the business intent is usually hidden from users, according to consumer advocacy group BEUC.

The group alleges that there is a broad violation of consumer rights on TikTok.

Owned by Chinese ByteDance, TikTok has grown rapidly around the world, especially among teenagers. However, a number of incidents have raised concerns about its privacy and security policies.

The European Commission said on Friday it had launched a formal dialogue with TikTok and national consumer groups to review the company’s trade practices and policy.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said further digitization brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has created new risks, especially for vulnerable consumers.

“In the European Union, it is prohibited to target children and minors with disguised advertisements such as banners in videos,” he said in a statement.

TikTok has said it will discuss the recently introduced measures with the Irish Consumer Protection Commission and the Swedish Consumer Agency. The two bodies lead the discussions.

“We have taken a number of steps to protect our young users, including making all accounts under the age of 16 private by default and disabling their direct messaging access,” the company said in a statement.

“Additionally, users under the age of 18 cannot purchase, send or receive virtual gifts, and we have strict policies prohibiting advertising that directly targets people under the age of digital consent. . “

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