TikTok Under US Government Investigation on Child Sexual Abuse Material

Preventing the sharing of child sexual abuse material has become an important issue on many content platforms recently. Chinese tech giant ByteDance’s short video platform TikTok is now currently facing investigation by U.S. government agencies over its handling of this exact issue, Financial Times reported on Friday.

According to the report, TikTok is currently the object of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), while the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) is investigating whether specific privacy functions on TikTok have been exploited by predators.

The DHS said that TikTok is the preferred uploading platform for abusers because of its large number of young users. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of TikTok-related child exploitation investigations by DHS increased seven-fold.

TikTok responded that it has zero tolerance for child sexual abuse materials. The company explained its stance on the issue and its efforts to moderate its platform, saying, “When we find any attempt to post, obtain or distribute child sexual abuse material, we remove the content, ban the accounts and devices, and immediately report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and engage with law enforcement as necessary.”

“We are deeply committed to the safety and wellbeing of minors, which is why we build youth safety into our policies, enable privacy and safety settings by default on teen accounts, and limit features by age,” TikTok added.

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Regarding the privacy feature being investigated by the DoJ, the Financial Times said one pattern it had noticed was content being procured and traded through private accounts, through which content would be password-protected. The illegal content would then be uploaded using the app’s “Only Me” function wherein videos are only visible for those logged into that profile account.