TikTok agrees to block underage users in Italy

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By Hebe Campbell
TikTok   -  Copyright  AP Photo

Video-sharing social media platform TikTok has agreed to block all users who register their age as under 13 years old.

It comes after a girl, 10, died in Sicily while participating in a so-called “blackout” challenge on the Chinese-owned network.

That prompted Italy's Data Protection Authority (Garante) to order TikTok to tighten its policies for young users.

It also ordered the firm to block the user data where "the age of the user has not been ascertained with certainty".

On Wednesday, TikTok confirmed that it had agreed to the order and were implementing other measures.

From February 9, the platform says that it will be sending every user in Italy through an age-verification process again and only those who prove they are 13 or older will be able to continue using the app.

It is also rolling out a new, in-app reporting button to allow users to flag an account they believe may be registered to someone 13 or younger.

"Keeping people on TikTok safe is our top priority," said Alexandra Evans, the platform's head of child safety in Europe.

"We've reached an agreement with the Garante and today we're taking additional steps to support our community in Italy."

"There is no finish line when it comes to protecting our users, especially our younger ones, and our work in this important area doesn't stop."

TikTok also told Euronews it will be doubling its number of Italian moderators.

"We're continuing to invest in the people, processes, and technologies that help to keep our community a safe space for positive, creative expression," said Evans.

Italy's regulator has stated it will monitor the effectiveness of the new measures and are working closely with Ireland's Data Protection Commission on the issue.

The Italian authority had previously advised TikTok in December of a series of violations, saying the platform had given little attention to the protection of children.

Italy has also questioned Facebook and Instagram on whether platforms are carrying out relevant checks to protect young users.

"The safety of children must be protected at all costs," said Licia Ronzulli, president of Italy's commission for childhood and adolescence.