By Cormac Keenan, Head of Trust and Safety, EMEA
More than ever, families are turning to platforms like TikTok to keep entertained, active, and informed. As we are all further apart physically, platforms like ours are providing people with ways to express their creativity, seek some light relief, and show support for their friends, families, and communities.
It has been inspiring to see how the TikTok community is supporting one another during this difficult time, from saying a huge thank you to our healthcare workers and those at the front of this battle through #ThankYouNHS and #GrazieaVoi to getting families involved in the #BlindingLightsChallenge. At the same time, we know families are focused on ensuring that their family members have an appropriate experience and most importantly, that they are safe when they are online.
We're always working to prioritise user safety by introducing new safety features, growing the size of our safety teams, being more transparent about our policies and efforts, and partnering with leading online safety organisations including Internet Matters and the Internet Watch Foundation among others.
Some of our recent progress has included:
- Changing our virtual gifting policies to only allow those over 18 to purchase, send, or receive virtual gifts.
- Introducing Family Pairing (previously Family Safety Mode) to help parents and guardians manage their teen's TikTok experience. Following the rollout in the UK in December 2019 and European markets earlier this year, Family Pairing will be available globally in the coming weeks.
- Continuing our You're in Control educational video series to help TikTok users understand how they can activate controls like filtering comments, choosing a private account, restricting duets, and enabling Digital Wellbeing features like Screen Time Management to build the TikTok experience that feels right for them.
- Opening a Trust and Safety Hub in Dublin, one of several global hubs alongside San Francisco and Singapore designed to strengthen our policies, technologies and moderation strategies to ensure they reflect local culture and context.
- Embracing the Voluntary Principles supported by Five Eyes nations globally across all markets that we operate.
As part of our commitment to improve safety on TikTok, we are introducing new restrictions on who can use our Direct Messaging feature. Only those aged 16 and over will be able to send and receive Direct Messages.
Direct Messaging is an amazing tool that enables people to make new friends and connections no matter where they are in the world, but despite its potential for good, we understand the potential for misuse. When we designed Direct Messaging on TikTok we put in place strong policies and gave our community tools to control their experience. For example, we prevented our users from receiving unsolicited messages by making sure that only those who they were friends with on TikTok could send them messages. On top of this, we don't allow videos or images to be shared within Direct Messaging.
Today's announcement is about going one step further to put in place stronger proactive protections to keep younger members of our community safe. We look forward to the feedback of our community and all of our stakeholders as we constantly improve with new features and resources to help our community manage their TikTok experience.
Anyone impacted by this change will receive an in-app notification starting today. On April 30, existing users and new users who do not meet the age requirements to use Direct Messaging will no longer have access to it.