Some TikTok users are having their accounts and videos deleted without warning after inputting a birthdate that would make them younger than 13, following a change to the app’s terms yesterday regarding children’s privacy law.
TikTok is prompting users to prove they’re of age to use the app following an FTC settlement agreement that required the app to come into compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which dictates that apps and websites get parental approval for users under 13. Typically, social media companies and web services tend to make 13 the age requirement, to avoid the liability of requiring parental consent. Some companies like Facebook have developed separate kid-friendly apps, such as Messenger Kids, to stay complaint. It appears TikTok is taking the latter approach, but choosing to keep users within the main app.
The new policy, which went into effect yesterday, deleted accounts and videos for users younger than 13, as well as users who mistakenly entered the wrong birthday. TikTok has been issuing solutions on Twitter for those who’ve had their accounts deleted, but some users are reporting having trouble finding the right support channels. One tweet recommends users upload a copy of their government ID to prove their age, while another tweet directs users to describe their problem in the ‘Add an Email’ section of the app.
Users who received a response from TikTok have reported they got an email with a text attachment containing video links. The email recommends users “copy all the video links in the attachment to a download software to batch download them,” or “install another media player” if the files cannot be opened. YouTuber Living with Perks, whose daughter had her account deleted, recommends downloading a Chrome extension to recover the video files. It remains unclear whether accounts and followers can be recovered once deleted.
Instead of requiring children under 13 get parental consent to comply with COPPA, TikTok is now directing users under 13 to a “younger ecosystem” within the app. That version of TikTok limits much of the features found in the full app, namely through prohibiting the uploading if videos and commenting on posts. Minors will still be able to watch videos, albeit a selection that’s curated for younger audiences.