TikTok has announced the establishment of a new Safety Advisory Council for Europe, which will provide expert, third-party insight into its various content and enforcement decisions in order to improve its overall approach.
As explained by TikTok:
"The Council will bring together leaders from academia and civil society from all around Europe. Each member brings a different, fresh perspective on the challenges we face and members will provide subject matter expertise as they advise on our content moderation policies and practices. Not only will they support us in developing forward-looking policies that address the challenges we face today, they will also help us to identify emerging issues that affect TikTok and our community in the future."
TikTok has faced a range of challenges over its content moderation processes, and in regards to the protection of younger users, both within Europe and in other regions.
The use of personal data has been a key issue - in July 2019, the UK Information Commissioner launched an investigation into how TikTok handles the personal data of its young users, and whether it prioritizes the safety of children on its network. In February 2019, the FTC fined TikTok a record $5.7 million for illegally collecting the names, email addresses, pictures and locations of kids under age 13. And in August last year, French officials announced a new investigation into TikTok's data-gathering practices, primarily due to concerns around its measures to protect younger users.
In terms of content, TikTok has been banned in some regions over its failure to protect children from exposure to offensive material. In Europe specifically, Italian authorities recently blocked access to TikTok for users whose age could not be proven definitively, following claims that a 10 year-old girl had died after taking part in a “blackout challenge” in the app. The challenge sees users choking themselves in their clips.
With the European Commission also investigating more claims that TikTok exposes young users to inappropriate content, TikTok needs to take more action, and the establishment of a Safety Advisory Council will ideally help it tackle these challenges.
TikTok says it will look to add additional members to the Council, with different areas of expertise, as the project evolves.
"We look forward to utilizing their expertise as we continue on our journey to help make TikTok a place where joy and creativity can thrive."
Given the app's popularity among younger audiences, this is a key element of concern, and it's good to see TikTok looking to take the initiative and establish stronger parameters around its content rules and enforcement.
You can read more about the new Council, including profiles of its first members, here.