A Dutch foundation representing parents from around Europe is suing Chinese owned video platform TikTok for failing to protect the safety of children and breaching European advertising and privacy rules .
Some 64,000 parents have registered claims with non-profit market information foundation SOMI to a combined amount of €1.4bn.
SOMI maintains that the platform is failing to protect children from taking part in dangerous challenges. An Italian judge recently ruled TikTok must block users who have not confirmed they are over the required age of 13 after a 10-year-old died as a result of a challenge shown on the platform.
Harmful content also includes videos featuring hidden ads for dangerous products and content which promotes unrealistic beauty ideals which can lead to self-harm and eating disorders, SOMI said.
SOMI also claims that TikTok is aiming advertising at children which breaches European rules and that the Chinese company behind the platform is collecting more data than necessary and does not conform to the rules for storing it securely.
A court ruling is the best way to make TikTok mend its ways, SOMI co-founder Cor Wijtvliet told RTL Nieuws. ‘A judge has it in his power to immediately stop these practices, and those of other platforms. We have sent letters to TikTok and European supervising bodies but nothing happened.’
On April 18 European consumer organisations questioned TikTok user conditions and advertising practices. Dutch privacy watchdog Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens has recently concluded an investigation but cited ‘legal procedures’ which stop it from making the results public, RTL said.
Wijtvliet said SOMI decided to take legal action because it took too long for organisations to act.
Lawyer Douwe Linders, who will be representing SOMI in court, said TikTok ‘may seem innocent fun but is, in reality, a profiling and advertising machine’. Linders said SOMI have a good case but that TikTok will not give up without a – possibly protracted- fight.
In a reaction a spokesman for TikTok told RTL that the protection of privacy and the safety of children have the ‘highest priority’, citing measures such as private accounts for users under 16 and shared parent-child accounts.
In February TikTok settled some 20 cases of breach of privacy for $90m (€76m) in the United States but without admitting liability.
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