Video-sharing social network TikTok has removed more than 500,000 accounts in Italy following an intervention by the country’s data protection watchdog, ordering it to recheck the age of all Italian users and block access to any under the age of 13. According to the regulator, between February 9 and April 21, more than 12.5M Italian users were asked to confirm that they were over 13 .
Online age verification remains a complex problem, and it’s not clear how many of thedefinitively belonged to under 13s. Today, the regulator said that TikTok pulled over 500k users because they were “likely” to be under the age of 16, around 400,000 because they declared an age under 13, and 140,000 through what the DPA describes as “a tools” implemented within the app.
TikTok has also agreed to take additional measures to strengthen its ability to detect and block underage users — includingAI tools to help it identify when children are using the service.
Reached for comment, TikTok sent us a statement confirming that it is trialing “additional measures to help ensure that only users aged 13 or over can use TikTok”.
Here’s the statement, which TikTok attributed to Alexandra Evans, its head of child safety in Europe:
“TikTok’sis protecting the privacy and safety of our users, and in particular our younger users. Following continued engagement with the Garante, we will be trialing additional measures to help ensure that only users aged 13 or over can use TikTok.
“We already take industry-leading steps to promote youth, such as setting accounts to private by default for users under 16 and enabling parents to link their account to their teen’s through Family Pairing. There is no finish line regarding safety, and we continue to evaluate and , processes, and systems and consult with external experts.”
Italy’s data protection regulator made an emergency intervention in— ordering TikTok to recheck the age of all users and block any users whose age it could not verify. The action followed reports in local media about a 10-year-old girl from Palermo who died of asphyxiation after participating in a “blackout challenge” on the .
Among the beefed-up measures, TikTok has agreed to take a commitment to act faster to remove underage users — with the Italian DPA saying the platform has guaranteed it will cancelit verifies as belonging to those under 13s within 48 hours.
The regulator said TikTok has also committed to “study and develop” solutions — which mayusing artificial intelligence — to “minimize the risk of children under 13 using the service”.
ad campaigns, both in-app and through radio and newspapers in Italy, to raise awareness about the safe use of the platform and get the message out that it is not suitable for under-12s — including targeting this messaging in a language and format that’s likely to engage underage minors themselves.
The social network has also agreed to share information with the regulator relating to the effectiveness of the various experimental measures — to work with the regulator tooff the service.