US Government Investigation Over Sexual Content on Chinese Social Networking Site Tiktok
Earlier this week, the United States government announced a investigation into sexual content on Chinese social networking site Tiktok. The investigation is being conducted to see if the company is putting minors at risk through its content. Specifically, the investigation is looking into content on Tiktok that has depicted child sexual abuse. The investigation is being conducted by the Consumer Protection Bureau of the Department of Justice.
Investigation into content depicting child sexual abuse
Despite the fact that child sexual abuse material (CSAM) isn’t new, it’s still a crime in the eyes of the law. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the amount of yearly reports soared from around one thousand in 2010 to more than one million in 2014. However, federal funding for 61 task forces has remained relatively flat over the last two years.
It’s no secret that the Internet has become a haven for criminal activity. The proliferation of explicit imagery reached a tipping point a few years ago. As a result, a number of tech companies have stepped up their game in attempts to curb the proliferation of child sexual abuse material. One of these companies, Facebook, has announced plans to encrypt its Messenger app.
Another company, CEOS (Center for Epidemiological Studies), has also taken a proactive approach to addressing the problem. CEOS is an organization comprised of attorneys who work closely with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in the field. They use their expertise to devise strategic law enforcement strategies and implement legislative proposals. Their staff members travel the world to attend conferences and seminars on topics of interest. They also take advantage of the latest in technology to fight the scourge of child pornography.
The New York Times has taken a close look at the problem. The paper’s investigative team reviewed over 10,000 pages of police documents and interviewed dozens of tech industry luminaries. In the end, they gleaned that the Internet’s most impressive feats are its most impressive shortcomings. Specifically, the paper found that tech companies failed to adequately police CSAM and that they have failed to come up with the most effective solutions to the problem.
The NCMEC has also outlined the best practices for combating the problem, including the creation of an online database of known CSAM distributors. It also produced a white paper titled Captured on Film: Child Sexual Abuse Material Exposure. Despite their efforts, the problem remains a major concern. The paper cites the most important factor as the lack of proper investigative and law enforcement resources.
Safety measures for minors
Despite TikTok’s laudable safety measures, there is growing scrutiny about its ability to protect minors from online abuse. While TikTok has a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate content, the platform has been criticized for allowing users to bypass parental controls.
Last year, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation reported that TikTok failed to remove hundreds of sexually explicit comments from videos of minors. In the case of one 14-year-old girl who received a sexual message, TikTok did not immediately suspend the user’s account. It took more than a week for the company to respond. TikTok also failed to suspend the account of a user who sent sexual messages to a 14-year-old girl.
A recent investigation by the BBC found accounts run by children as young as nine. These accounts are linked to a number of online predators. In the case of Madison, a 17-year-old from South Carolina, some underage friends were earning $200 a week in TikTok gifts.
In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are investigating TikTok for its handling of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The Department of Homeland Security’s Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU) leads the investigation, which is examining TikTok’s privacy feature. Several states, including Montana, have launched civil investigations into TikTok.
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined TikTok $5.7 million for failing to remove content from underage users. The FTC said TikTok failed to obtain consent from children under 13 before collecting their data. The company also failed to report 155,000 videos to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSEC).
The U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has provisionally ruled that TikTok violated data protection law. The ICO said TikTok failed to provide the information it had requested in a “comprehensive, transparent and easily understandable manner.” The ICO has warned TikTok of a possible PS27 million fine, which would be the largest in the ICO’s history.
According to Erin Burke, the head of the DHS’s child exploitation investigations unit, the social media platform is a “platform of choice” for predators.
Various US government agencies have launched an investigation into TikTok, a social media app that has been criticized for its use of user data. The company has been accused of failing to moderate inappropriate content and giving predators easy access to children.
In March, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) ordered Beijing Shiji Information Technology to divest interests in StayNTouch, a company that acquired the popular app Grindr, over concerns about the data security of the app. Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr called TikTok a “national security threat”.
The US Department of Homeland Security also launched an investigation into TikTok, focusing on how the app handles child abuse material. The Department of Justice is also looking into the company’s handling of privacy features.
According to the Financial Times, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued TikTok with a “notice of intent” – a precursor to a possible fine. The ICO believes that TikTok failed to provide adequate information to its users in a clear, concise and easily understood manner.
The UK Government has also imposed a fine on TikTok, claiming that it had breached data protection law by collecting user data. The maximum fine, which ICO has calculated as 4% of the global turnover of the company, could be as high as 27 million pounds.
The White House has not commented on the matter, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the agency was investigating TikTok. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice also declined to comment. However, the department has a policy of not confirming specific cases.
The investigation into TikTok may also be a sign of a broader political and economic struggle in the U.S., as well as the direction the government will take in addressing the issue.
TikTok’s user base is largely children and young adults, making it a vulnerable group. However, the company has also struggled to moderate a flood of new content. It is believed that TikTok has given predators easy access to traffic children, grooming them for sexual exploitation.
CEO Shou Zi Chew
During a recent congressional hearing, TikTok’s chief operating officer, Vanessa Pappas, testified that TikTok does not share user data with its Chinese parent, ByteDance. The question is whether TikTok can fulfill its promises to users that it will not share their personal information with the Chinese government.
In addition to the recent congressional hearing, TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny for its data practices. The company recently announced that it has reached one billion monthly active users, but regulators have begun to question the company’s data collection practices.
The question of whether TikTok shares user data with its Chinese parent was raised again in July when the Senate Intelligence Committee launched an investigation into the company. A bipartisan group of state attorneys general also launched an investigation into the company. The senators have urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok.
Several former executives of TikTok have testified that they were told to follow ByteDance’s directions. ByteDance has a more powerful position than TikTok when it comes to making decisions about the company’s growth. It is also subject to the Chinese government’s censorship laws.
TikTok has also been accused of misleading Congress. According to an earlier report, the company has claimed to have its own global CEO. However, Shou Zi Chew, the current CEO, has only limited power. He was appointed to the role in May of 2021. Chew has been responsible for making TikTok’s strategy and product decisions.
TikTok has also been the target of a CFIUS (Comprehensive Foreign Investments in U.S.) contract. According to a CNBC report, TikTok was expected to sell for $20 billion to $30 billion, but has chosen a buyer. However, negotiations are likely to slow down because of the involvement of the Chinese government.
TikTok’s internal audit team regularly investigates the company’s employees for misuse of company resources. They use ByteDance office management software and a data request system known as the “Green Channel.” The team also investigates employees who may be engaged in misconduct or who may have leaked confidential information.