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Wednesday Feb 03 2021

TikTok to block users in Italy who say they are under 13 after 10-year-old dies

 Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019. — Reuters/File

  • Decision comes after death of a 10-year-old girl was blamed on a breath-holding social media challenge
  • Italian regulator says TikTok has agreed to block all accounts in Italy from Feb 9
  • Regulator says TikTok also agreed to evaluate using artificial intelligence to detect under-age accounts

MILAN: Video app TikTok said Wednesday it has agreed with Italian authorities to block all users aged 13 or less.

The development comes after a 10-year-old girl lost her life while partaking in a breath-holding social media challenge, one which went viral on the video-sharing platform.

Prosecutors in Palermo are investigating the case, which has led to increased scrutiny of children’s use of social media platforms.

TikTok blackout challenge: Italy tells platform to block users after death of young girl

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, first gained popularity in Asia before gaining a big following in the West. The app became immensely popular among teenagers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Italian regulator said TikTok has agreed to block all underage accounts in Italy from February 9 and to readmit only those users who would provide documents showing their date of birth.

Read more: Tiktok reveals new policy for users under 18 years old

Alexandra Evans, Tiktok’s head of child safety in Europe, said it would also introduce a button into the app to enable members to report users who appear to be under 13.

The regulator said TikTok has also agreed to evaluate the use of artificial intelligence to detect underage accounts.

It will, however, have to discuss the proposal with the Irish privacy authority, which is the European Union’s lead data protection authority for Tik Tok because the firm has its European head office in Ireland.