The video-sharing app TikTok said on Wednesday it had agreed with Italian authorities to block all users who gave their age as under 13, among other measures, after the death of a 10-year-old girl was blamed on a breath-holding social media challenge. Prosecutors in Palermo are investigating that case, which has led to increased scrutiny of children’s use of social media platforms.
TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, first gained popularity in Asia and now also has a big following in the West. It has become hugely popular among teenagers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic. A button will also be introduced into the app to enable members to report users who appear to be under 13, TikTok’s head of child safety in Europe, Alexandra Evans, said in a statement. Accounts of those who say they are younger than 13 will be deleted. Garante della Privacy said it reserved the right to verify whether the proposed measures were effective. The regulator said TikTok had also agreed to evaluate using artificial intelligence to detect under-age accounts. The Italian watchdog added that it will be monitoring the effectiveness of TikTok’s age verification process.
The move to require all users in Italy to go through TikTok’s age-verification process again follows an emergency order by Italy’s GPDP on January 22 after the death of a 10-year-old girl from Palermo who died of asphyxiation after participating in a “blackout challenge” on the social network, according to reports in local media.