What is TikTok?

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TikTok
TikTok is the latest video-sharing app attracting millions of people worldwide – but it’s not without its share of controversy.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said it is currently investigating the platform for its usage of data and has already been fined a record 5.7 million dollars (£4.3 million) in the US for the way it handles children’s data.

Here is everything you need to know about TikTok:

– What is TikTok?

TikTok is an app that allows people to share short videos they have shot on a smartphone and add enhancements such as filters and special effects.

The Chinese-owned platform claims to have more than 500 million active users in some 150 countries and regions, and is in the top 25 free apps on the iOS app store alone.

Many of the videos focus on comedy and pranks as well as dancing and lip-syncing of popular songs.

People can also carry out live broadcasts, where others can comment below.

The app – formerly known as Musical.ly – is free to download and use, though people can pay to load virtual money, which they can use to buy virtual items or send to their favourite users.

Packs of coins cost from 99p for 100, all the way up to £93.99 for 10,000.

– Why is TikTok attracting controversy?

TikTok predominantly attracts young people.

When signing up, users are expected to state their age to show that they are over 13, though it’s easy to simply to lie.

Accounts on TikTok are public by default, meaning anyone can see what has been posted until it is made private manually.

Users can comment under videos and also send private messages when following each other.

TikTok
TikTok attracts large numbers of young people (Peter Byrne/PA)

Earlier this year, children’s charity Barnardo’s warned that the popularity of live streaming services like TikTok is contributing to younger and younger children seeking help after being exploited online, and expressed concern about the ease with which predators can use the comments function on live videos.

There are also fears that TikTok creators are exploiting fans over digital gifts, following a BBC investigation which suggested that children are being pressured by popular video-makers into sending costly digital gifts.

TikTok responded to the report saying it was “sorry” and that it would work on strengthening its policies and guidelines.

– Why is TikTok being investigated?

The UK data watchdog, the ICO, is currently looking into how TikTok handles the personal data of young people.

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee on Tuesday, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said the watchdog is investigating the app’s messaging system “which is completely open” and looking at the kind of videos that are collected and shared by children online.

Chris Price
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