US Government Investigation Over TikTok Abuse
Almost two years ago, I received a complaint from a mother who was worried about her children being harmed by an app called Tiktok. This article outlines how the app has been used by pedophiles and exploiters to groom, abuse, and traffic children. The article also explores the app’s data access and disclosure requirements and how these could be used by the U.S. government to investigate and prosecute abuses.
CSAM investigation into TikTok abuse has opened after child sexual abuse material was posted privately and publicly. According to the Department of Homeland Security, TikTok is the medium of choice for predators. Several investigations have been opened into TikTok-related child exploitation cases, including seven that are underway now.
According to the Financial Times, TikTok moderators have not been able to keep up with the rapid growth of the platform’s illegal content. The report also highlighted the company’s lack of check and balance.
The US Department of Justice is also investigating TikTok’s privacy feature. This feature allows users to create a private account that bypasses standard algorithms. This is used by abusers to share illegal content, which is then only visible to logged-in users.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported that in 2021, there were a record number of child sexual abuse cases online. In addition, the Internet Watch Foundation called 2021 the “worst year on record for child sexual abuse.”
Using a private account on TikTok, abusers can meet up with children, groom them, and send them sexually explicit videos. According to the BCC report, these predators targeted young children as young as nine years old. The reports also revealed that suspects would use TikTok to befriend children online and offline.
TikTok has a “zero tolerance” policy on the use of its service for illegal content. It has recently made a number of safety measures to keep minors safe on its platform. In addition, it disabled direct messaging for under-16s. It also allows caregiver controls to be locked with a pin code. However, the company has been reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) is a treaty signed between two or more countries to facilitate cross-jurisdictional requests for evidence in criminal matters. It defines the best practices for handling cross-jurisdictional requests for evidence.
TikTok is a video sharing application which has over a billion users. The company has employed over 10,000 content moderators worldwide to ensure that user content is not viewed inappropriately. TikTok has also implemented safety measures to protect its teenage users from the perils of internet use. TikTok’s policies and guidelines are downloadable from the company’s website.
TikTok has also implemented a “Only Me” function which is only visible to users who are logged into their accounts. Despite TikTok’s efforts, there are still videos of minors smoking, drinking alcohol, and engaging in sexual acts. These videos accounted for the majority of removals from the app.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also examining the ways in which TikTok has handled user content. In addition, a coalition of state attorneys general has launched a multi-state investigation into TikTok’s efforts to protect its young users. The Department of Justice is also conducting an investigation into the company’s moderation practices.
The TikTok law enforcement guide contains information about reporting content on the platform. The company also publishes data on how many requests are received from each country. The guide is not intended to be comprehensive and may be updated from time to time. If a user is alleged to have engaged in inappropriate behavior, TikTok will notify the user and take immediate action. TikTok will also notify law enforcement of the incident. If the offender complies, the company will then direct the law enforcement to the appropriate central authority.
Data disclosure requirements
Considering the myriad of social media channels on the interwebs, dealing with sexual predators has never been a fortress of solitude. This is a good thing for those of us who are willing to put up with the aforementioned scumbags for the sake of a few extra pixels or kilobytes of bandwidth. The TikTok fad has only exacerbated matters. The company has cranked out the largest and most sexpaulous influx of users in the history of the Internet. As a result, the aforementioned naysayers have a field day. And, hey, who doesn’t like a little schadenfreude now and then?
TikTok’s chief executive officer is also a rabid fan of Twitter. As such, there’s a lot of chatter about his company’s unorthodox management style and sexpaulous employee pool.
Extensive access to U.S. user data
Earlier this year, a Buzzfeed News report revealed that TikTok employees in China had been accessing user data for months. While the company denied the report, it did acknowledge a potential problem in its data access.
TikTok is currently negotiating a contract with the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to limit China-based employees from accessing private information. CFIUS is responsible for evaluating potential security risks associated with foreign investment in the U.S.
TikTok’s internal data access plan, known as Project Texas, is the core of the company’s national security negotiations with the CFIUS. Project Texas is designed to prevent China-based employees from accessing sensitive user data. It would also silo U.S. user data locally in the U.S. and would ensure that it remained out of China mainland.
TikTok has been under investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee. According to the report, TikTok executives misrepresented the company’s relationship to ByteDance, a Chinese company.
The company’s internal audit and risk control department, which operates from the company’s Beijing headquarters, planned to collect information on U.S. users’ locations and phone numbers. It also had plans to conduct surveillance on two Americans.
According to TikTok’s website, it will limit employee access to user data and store it in a data center in Virginia. But it has not answered questions about how its data-storage strategy would benefit different demographics, journalists, and government officials. It does not say how it would seek permission to access this data, and it does not mention state or federal laws.
Exploiters’ use of the app to groom, abuse, and traffic children
Despite the fact that TikTok boasts more than a billion users, it has yet to prove itself to be a safe place for children to hang out. The site has been the subject of many a white paper describing how exploiters and predators are making use of its platform to their advantage. As a result, TikTok is currently under the microscope by US and European law enforcement agencies.
It’s not all bad though, as the TikTok empire also represents a massive advertising revenue bonanza. In fact, TikTok is expected to make an estimated $11.6 billion in gross ad revenue this year. That said, TikTok isn’t the only social media platform in town. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat all have their fair share of predators and pedophiles. Fortunately for parents, the likes of Facebook are a tad more discerning than their social media counterparts, and have a well-established protocol for identifying and removing such trolls from their sites.
TikTok’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has taken the initiative to put his hat in the ring by announcing a series of product changes to address the issues that plagued the site’s young users. As part of the changes, the site is now hiring more moderators to keep predators at bay. In fact, TikTok is currently undergoing an investigation by the US Department of Homeland Security. The agency is looking into the company’s handling of child abuse material.
In addition, TikTok has been the source of the sex sex sex. The site has a reputation as a “hunting ground” for predators and pedophiles. While this may be a tad hyperbolic, the fact remains that TikTok is a perfect setting for traffickers and predators to meet, greet, and engage in a friendly digital pub crawl.