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TikTok update bans under-16s from private messaging

Under-16s will no longer be able to send and receive direct messages on TikTok after the social media giant updated its policies. 

The company made the announcement in a post on Thursday, reiterating that user safety is a priority. Until now, all users have been able to send direct messages, providing both accounts mutually followed each other. 

It is the first time a leading social-media platform has restricted private messaging by teenagers on a global scale. 

TikTok said: “We know families are focused on ensuring that their family members have an appropriate experience and most importantly, that they are safe when they are online.

“Today's announcement is about going one step further to put in place stronger proactive protections to keep younger members of our community safe.”

This isn’t the first time TikTok has introduced new safety features. Recent updates to the app include a change to its virtual gift policies, the roll out of a new Family Pairing mode and the launching of a You’re in Control video series to help users understand its safety and privacy controls.

Andy Burrows, Head of NSPCC child safety online policy, said: “This is a bold move by TikTok as we know that groomers use direct messaging to cast the net widely and contact large numbers of children.

“It's time tech firms did more to identify which of their users are children and make sure they are given the safest accounts by default.”

Critics, however, are skeptical, raising concerns that the new rules will not stop children lying about their age. The limit is established by the date of birth included on the account when it is created – with no added age verification. 

British Children's Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety secretary John Carr said: “It's good that TikTok are showing an awareness of these issues, but without having any meaningful way of checking children's ages it's a lot less than it appears to be.

“It's potentially dangerous because parents might allow children to go on an app believing that age means something, and it doesn't, because they never check.”

The new policy is due to come into effect on 30 April.


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