A lawsuit that is being handled in secret by the justice of the Vara da Infância e da Juventude de São Paulo accuses TikTok of having violated the ECA (Statute of Children and Adolescents) for allegedly exposing minors to videos whose content can be considered sensitive for the public. age range.
The process may change the way we watch videos on the platform, as it seeks to force the social network to display the indicative age group rating in the content. In addition, he wants mandatory user identity verification, to prohibit children and prevent access to videos without proper registration and login approval.
The plaintiff, São Paulo attorney Anderson Albuquerque, told the inclination who sought justice to protect her two minor children from certain content.
In Brazil, 45% of children up to 12 years old who have a mobile phone with internet access the application. It is the third most used by this age group in the country, according to a 2021 survey by Opinion Box.
Albuquerque said he could not go into detail about the merits of the proceedings as they were secret, but stressed that “as a citizen and father of two minor children, I could not fail to express my concern over inappropriate content posted on TikTok, which lacks an effective policy to protect children and adolescents”.
In my opinion, the platform enables the placement of content inappropriate for children and adolescents, in clear and repeated violation of the standards established by the Statute of Children and Adolescents, by the Civil Rights Framework for the Internet and by the Constitution federal. Anderson Albuquerque, trial plaintiff.
search by inclinationTikTok said it had not yet been notified of the action, but added that it “does not comment on court cases.”
The MPSP (Ministério Público de São Paulo), in a preliminary opinion, expressed its intention to enter the case as an accuser. However, the capital’s children’s and youth prosecutor’s office asked the lawyer to express his interest in being replaced by the agency in the prosecutor’s office.
When asked if he agreed, Anderson Albuquerque replied that he could not comment, “but he has great confidence in the prosecution and a possible procedural hypothesis will bring a much broader scope to the case. case, with representation of the whole community through possible collective action”. .
In contact with inclinationprosecutor Lélio Ferraz Siqueira Neto, handling the case, said he preferred not to comment on the action, but revealed that in parallel he will open an investigation to investigate the charges.
What are the flaws of TikTok?
According to the lawsuit, although TikTok has its services policy that limits content to children and teenagers, some possible flaws circumvent this limitation, exposing underage users to videos with sexual undertones or encouraging violence, gambling and the consumption of illicit drugs, for example.
- No identity verification
The court filing states that TikTok imposes a minimum age of 13 to create an account, but claims that “the platform itself does not have effective means to enforce this determination, as there is no means of verification. of the age of the user”.
For the lawyer, this would make “possible to circumvent the T&Cs by hiding the age of the person creating the account”, since the user could enter any age since he is not obliged to prove it.
For people between the ages of 13 and 16, TikTok restricts access to certain features, such as direct messages. But, as the lawsuit argues, “virtually unlimited access to the services provided by the app is provided without the need to create an account.”
That is, to watch any video, just enter the TikTok URL and search the search box for the term related to the content you want to see. This would bypass the platform’s own parental controls tool, which gives parents the ability to see what their children are accessing.
Another problem exposed in the lawsuit is related to the search algorithm. The platform is allegedly programmed to identify garbled terms that circumvent restrictions on video search, the indictment says.
For example: it is not possible to search for ‘sex’, but the term ‘s3x0’ gives results saved in this way. As stated in the action, this makes the constraint null.
What can change on TikTok?
If the court rules against TikTok, the platform may change the way we view videos, as the lawsuit asks the social network to adopt the following changes:
- Prevent minors from accessing inappropriate content according to the classification;
- Establish an inspection, conference and control policy to analyze user registrations in order to certify age;
- Require users to indicate and rate the age range of posted videos.
In his preliminary statement, prosecutor Lélio Neto agreed on the need for the platform to adopt measures.
Given this scenario, it is essential that social media managers adopt sufficient security and privacy measures aimed at protecting their users under the age of 18. Prosecutor Lélio Neto.
How a lawsuit can change other platforms
As the procedure has not even been examined on its admissibility, it is still early to know if the case will lead to TikTok.
On the other hand, if the arguments of the action are accepted, the decision can be reflected in other social networks. This is how the lawyer Marco Antonio Araújo Júnior evaluates, specialist in the law of new technologies and holder of a master’s degree in diffuse and collective rights.
The lawyer believes that it is possible that digital platforms could be held responsible if they leave children exposed to content deemed inappropriate for their age.
“The ECA requires that content made available to children and young people may not contain illustrations, photographs, captions, reviews or advertisements for alcoholic beverages, tobacco, weapons and ammunition, as well as pornographic or obscene messages,” he said.
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