One of the country’s most popular and booming social media platforms is making it far too easy for child predators to exploit underage users, and the U.S. government is well on its way to cracking down on the problem. According to the Financial Times, both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are investigating TikTok over its handling of illegal child sex abuse materials, as well as a privacy feature that is enabling malicious actors to propagate and share illicit content.
TikTok is under investigation by US government agencies over its handling of child sexual abuse material, as the burgeoning short-form video app struggles to moderate a flood of new content. Dealing with sexual predators has been an enduring challenge for social media platforms, but TikTok’s young user base has made it vulnerable to being a target. The US Department of Homeland Security is investigating how TikTok handles child sexual abuse material, according to two sources familiar with the case. The Department of Justice is also reviewing how a specific privacy feature on TikTok is being exploited by predators, said one person with knowledge of the case. The Department of Justic has a longstanding policy of not confirming or denying the existence of ongoing investigations.
“It is a perfect place for predators to meet, groom and engage children,” said Erin Burke, unit chief of the child exploitation investigations unit at Homeland Security’s cyber crime division, calling it the “platform of choice” for the behavior. The investigations highlight how TikTok is struggling to cope with the torrent of content generated by more than 1 billion users. The company, owned by China’s ByteDance, has more than 10,000 human moderators worldwide and has been rapidly hiring staff in this area. The business is booming. A forecast from Insider Intelligence puts TikTok’s advertising revenue at $11.6 billion this year—up threefold from last year’s $3.9 billion. Mark Zuckerberg, Meta chief executive, has blamed the popularity of TikTok among young people as a principal reason for slowing interest in its longer-established social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
TikTok reported nearly 155,000 videos last year, whereas Instagram, which also has more than 1 billion users, had nearly 3.4 million reports. TikTok did not receive any takedown requests from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Childrenlast year, unlike rivals Fcebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
We need to confront the explosion of online child sex abuse material (CSAM). We need to hold Tech companies accountable. The Earn It Act is the strongest piece of bipartisan legislation to confront the explosion of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM), which endangers children by empowering the criminals who make it and trade it. According to federal law enforcement, many of these perpetrators are also hands-on offenders. Current legal incentives award digital platforms for ignoring this grotesque crime, which harms victims for life.
Tech companies are spending tens of millions to fight this common-sense proposal. We must contact members of Congress, both Senators and U.S. Representatives, to ask them to co-sponsor two identical bills: S 3538 in the Senate and H.R. 6544 in the House. Tell Congress to take action and pass the EARN IT Act.
Help Us Raise Funds to Implement Human Trafficking Prevention Programs in Schools according to AB1227.
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