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Social Media App TikTok Ordered To Pay $5.7M Fine For Violating A Federal Children's Privacy Law

Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

TikTok, formerly known as, is having to pay a $5.7 million settlement after allegations of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

Federal Trade Commission officials issued a statement on Wednesday calling the settlement "the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children's privacy case."

More than 200 million users worldwide have downloaded the app that was acquired by the Chinese company ByteDance in 2017.

The app allows users to upload videos of themselves lip-syncing to music and encourages interaction through sharing videos, commenting, and exchanging direct messages with other users.

The Department of Justice filed the FTC's complaint on their behalf alleging that the app's managers knowingly allowed children under the age of 13, who make up the majority of TikTok users, to use the app without the consent of a parent.

The FTC's complaint included public reports of adults interacting with minors through TikTok, which became an increasing concern when the app added a new feature in 2016 that allowed users to locate other users within a 50-mile radius.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons is hoping the record-breaking settlement will serve as a strict reminder to other platforms.

"This record penalty should be a reminder to all online services and websites that target children: We take enforcement of COPPA very seriously, and we will not tolerate companies that flagrantly ignore the law."

As a result of the settlement, TikTok has deleted all videos uploaded by children under 13 and will be required to come into compliance with COPPA when signing up new underage members.

A new "separate app experience" with privacy protections is available for younger users.

"Beginning today, this additional app experience now allows us to split users into age-appropriate TikTok environments, in line with FTC guidance for mixed audience apps."
"The new environment for younger users does not permit the sharing of personal information, and it puts extensive limitations on content and user interaction."
"Both current and new TikTok users will be directed to the age-appropriate app experience."

People are starting to wonder if the new changes presents this loophole.

Older members began noticing adverse effects on their accounts as a result of the revamp. Paige,15, is furious after losing 17,000 of her followers after some confusion logging in and confirming her birth date. She was unable to change the default current date, therefore, the system recognized her as zero-years old.

"I didn't think it would be a big deal so I just entered the date it gave me and my account was immediately removed," she told Buzzfeed News. "With a warning of some kind this issue would have been avoidable."

Though she was able to recover 908 of her previously uploaded videos through a provided link, it's not enough.

"I am more concerned about my platform completely being lost without my knowledge of how to resolve this issue."
"The account actually brought me a ton of opportunities that are now completely lost just because they probably didn't go about the situation in a very smart way."

Other users are experiencing technical difficulty.

Hopefully the glitches will be smoothed out over time as the app moves forward with the new privacy protections.

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