By Naveen Athrappully, February 16, 2023, The Epoch Times
Since the advent of the internet, child predators have had an easy option to get in touch with minors for sexual relationships. However, TikTok is said to be worsening this problem due to its massive popularity among youngsters. Over 50 percent of American minors are estimated to use TikTok at least once every day. “The audience that’s following these children, a lot of them are adult males that have a sexual interest in children,” Jon Rouse, police veteran who heads a group targeting child sex offenders for Interpol, said to The Wall Street Journal.
“Child sex offenders will gravitate toward where there are children. Pedophiles prefer looking at videos,” he added. Billions of videos are uploaded to the app every month, with numerous minors doing all kinds of things, including talking about personal lives.
TikTok officially only allows individuals who are 13 and older to open an account. Users younger than 16 years are also not allowed to use the direct messaging feature which allows people to converse with each other privately. However, children can still falsify their age and gain access to such features.
For instance, Grady Moffett Sr., 42, is currently in a county jail in Fort Worth, Texas, on charges related to alleged sexual assault. He was able to strike up romantic conversations with a 14-year-old girl.
Both of them professed love for each other in public comments at the platform. The duo communicated with each other using TikTok’s direct messaging feature, he admitted to The Wall Street Journal.
The teen girl’s mother said that the situation was “every parent’s nightmare.” The girl told her mother that she loved Moffett because he understood her. “I felt like he kind of groomed her,” the mother told the media outlet.
TikTok’s Failure to Implement Robust Safeguards
Seara Adair, a TikTok content creator, is worried about child sexual content proliferating across the platform. In March last year, Adair was tagged with a video of a pre-teen who was completely naked and doing “inappropriate things,” she said to Forbes.
Adair reported the video for “pornography and nudity.” However, the app later alerted her that “we didn’t find any violations.” This happened despite the fact that TikTok claims as a policy that it has “zero tolerance for child sexual abuse and sexualized content of minors (any person under the age of 18).”
“There’s quite literally accounts that are full of child abuse and exploitation material on their platform, and it’s slipping through their AI,” Adair said.
The Epoch Times has reached out to TikTok for comment.
On TikTok, many teens opt to not make their accounts private in a bid to gather likes. They also use features allowing them to post videos together with strangers side by side.
“You have young kids dancing and showing their lives all over TikTok,” Joseph Scaramucci, a police detective in Waco, Texas, told The Wall Street Journal. “It makes it a one-stop shop for people looking to exploit them.”
Promoting Sexual Content to Kids
In September 2021, The Wall Street Journal published the results of an investigation that used 100 fake TikTok accounts, including 31 accounts registered as users aged 13–15.
The research uncovered that teenage accounts were exposed to over 100 videos from other profiles which recommended porn content. Thousands of videos, which creators had marked adults-only, were also fed into feeds of the teenage accounts.
In an interview with Fox in December, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called for banning TikTok, pointing out that the app is exposing minors to “violent, depraved, degrading sexual material,” material that Beijing would “never” let Chinese teenagers watch. He also insisted that TikTok is a threat to data security and privacy.
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