A bipartisan quartet of powerful Senators has called for a government investigation into popular social media video app, TikTok, saying that "[f]aced with compelling evidence that this wildly popular social media platform is blatantly flouting binding U.S. privacy rules, the FTC should move swiftly to launch an investigation and forcefully hold violators accountable for their conduct."
Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) wrote the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging it to investigate TikTok over alleged failure abide by the terms of a 2019 settlement, citing the rise of children's technology use during the COVID-19 pandemic as a new spur.
“Federal privacy laws, regulations promulgated under those laws, and consent decrees resulting from privacy violations are effective only if they are vigorously enforced,” the Senators wrote. “As the ongoing public health crisis continues to catalyze children’s increased tech use, the FTC must increase its attention to the dangers that minors encounter online, including the manipulation of kids’ attention and their data for advertising dollars.”
TikTok (formerly Musical.ly) last year agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the FTC allegation that it had illegally collected personal info from kids. In addition to the settlement, TikTok "agreed to change their practices to ensure COPPA compliance," the FTC said at the time.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Center for Digital Democracy are among a coalition of 20 groups that filed a complaint with the FTC earlier this month against TikTok, saying it was not adhering to its February 2019 settlement with the FTC.
The senators cited that complaint in calling for the investigation. "TikTok has a clear record of failing to adequately protect young users’ privacy," they said.
Following the new complaint's filing in May, the company said: "We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users."
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.