FILE PHOTO: Tik Tok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration picture taken, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fourteen Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday to urge it to consider probing the short video app TikTok for “blatant disregard” of a consent decree related to children’s privacy.
The letter from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FTC’s work on privacy, follows allegations by the Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others that TikTok failed to take down videos made by children under the age of 13 as it agreed to do under a 2019 consent agreement with the FTC.
“The blatant disregard for the consent decree could encourage other websites to fail to adhere to settlements made with your agency, thereby weakening protections for all Americans,” the letter said.
TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide said the service “takes the issue of safety seriously for all our users, and we continue to further strengthen our safeguards and introduce new measures to protect young people on the app.”
Last month, the popular app introduced Family Pairing, a feature giving parents control over teenagers’ accounts. Children under 13 already have their experience restricted.
The lawmakers said TikTok’s failure to comply with the consent decree put it in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, at a time when TikTok use is exploding as more people stay home due to curbs to contain the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 100,000 people in the United States this year.
The letter was signed by Democratic Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Ann McLane Kuster, Anna Eshoo, Bobby Rush, Diana DeGette, Doris Matsui, Kathy Castor, Peter Welch, Yvette Clarke, Scott Peters, Eliot Engel, Jerry McNerney, Nanette Diaz Barragan and Lisa Blunt Rochester.
Earlier this month, two Republicans on the same committee wrote to TikTok to press for information about its potentially illegal use of data about children and ties to the Chinese government. The letter was addressed to Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of TikTok owner ByteDance.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Himani Sarkar