TikTok bans direct messaging for under-16s

Short-form video platform 'understands potential for misuse'.

TikTok: used by one in eight 12- to 15-year-olds in UK last year
TikTok: used by one in eight 12- to 15-year-olds in UK last year

TikTok has banned its youngest users from using direct messaging, with only those aged 16 and above able to use the feature from 30 April. 

The short-form video and social media platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, said it "understands the potential for misuse" amid concerns that child predators could target children who use TikTok.

TikTok is highly popular with teens and tweens; a survey by Ofcom found that around one in eight (13%) aged between 12 and 15 used the platform last year. 

It is the latest in a series of safety measures that TikTok has brought in since bursting on to the social media scene at the end of 2018 as a revamped version of lip-sync video app Musical.ly. It has updated its virtual gifting policies, introduced a family safety mode and launched a Trust and Safety Hub in Dublin. 

The company has been on an aggressive expansion journey in the past year, including in London, where it has been growing its sales team for the UK and EMEA. Richard Waterworth was appointed UK general manager in December 2019. 

However, many agencies and marketers told Campaign last year that TikTok needed to show it was serious about improving user safety. Group M, WPP's media buying arm, labelled TikTok "high risk", while Samsung said the jury was out on whether TikTok could build a platform on which brands could safely engage with consumers. 

Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s head of trust and safety, EMEA, said: "When we designed direct messaging on TikTok, we put in place strong policies and gave our community tools control their experience. For example, we prevented our users from receiving unsolicited messages by making sure that only those who they were friends with on TikTok could send them messages. On top of this, we don't allow videos or images to be shared within direct messaging. 

"Today's announcement is about going one step further to put in place stronger proactive protections to keep younger members of our community safe. We look forward to the feedback of our community and all of our stakeholders as we constantly improve with new features and resources to help our community manage their TikTok experience."

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