European consumer groups have accused video-sharing app TikTok of failing to protect minor users from inappropriate content and hidden advertising.
The Chinese-owned app was the target of multiple complaints from organizations in 15 different countries on Tuesday for allegedly violating European consumer rights. Along with its treatment of children and teens, the app was slammed for its allegedly unfair terms of service, misleading data-processing practices, and virtual gifts feature critics say modifies the exchange rate so transactions are financially in the app’s favor.
TikTok, which has over 800 million active users worldwide, is owned by ByteDance and has over two billion downloads on the Google Play and Apple app stores.
A complaint filed by BEUC urges authorities to investigate the conduct of the social media platform that it says is “failing to conduct due diligence when it comes to protecting children from inappropriate content such as videos showing suggestive content which are just a few scrolls away.”
BEUC said that companies who want to advertise on the app are encouraged to do so in a way that contributes to the proliferation of hidden marketing.
“Users are for instance triggered to participate in branded hashtag challenges where they are encouraged to create content of specific products. As popular influencers are often the starting point of such challenges the commercial intent is usually masked for users,” complained the BEUC.
Referencing findings included in the report “TikTok Without Filters,” the BEUC said that TikTok’s terms of service are “unclear, ambiguous and favor TikTok to the detriment of its users.”
“TikTok does not clearly inform its users, especially in a way comprehensible to children and teenagers, about what personal data is collected, for what purpose and for what legal reason. This information is, however, essential for consumers when using Tik Tok’s services,” stated the BEUC.
The app’s copyright terms are equally unfair, according to the BEUC, as they give TikTok an irrevocable right to use, distribute, and reproduce users’ published video content without remuneration.
“We’re always open to hearing how we can improve, and we have contacted BEUC as we would welcome a meeting to listen to their concerns,” a TikTok spokesman said.