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TikTok Faces Heat In Europe For Allowing ‘Hidden Advertising’ For Kids
By Mikelle Leow, 17 Feb 2021
Image via DANIEL CONSTANTE / Shutterstock.com
As TikTok continues to face contention in the US over data and privacy issues, European critics are censuring it for an entirely different matter. The popular social network has been handed a complaint by the continent’s consumer advocacy group for permitting “hidden advertising” targeted at unsuspecting young users.
In its complaint, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) criticize the platform for taking the side of advertisers and, by extension, neglecting to safeguard children and teenagers “from hidden advertising and potentially harmful content.”
The group cited “branded hashtag challenges” as some of the ways brands have surreptitiously roped children and teenagers into their marketing efforts. These usually involve influencers starting a dare, sponsored by advertisers, and encouraging young followers to participate in the challenge by posting a related video with a specific hashtag.
These stunts effectively turn children into “billboards,” the organization claimed.
BEUC asserted that masked advertising isn’t the only “consumer rights infringement” TikTok is guilty of making. It said the social media platform is “also potentially failing to conduct due diligence when it comes to protecting children from inappropriate content such as videos showing suggestive content which are just a few scrolls away.”
“TikTok is letting its users down by breaching their rights on a massive scale,” explained Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC. She added, “Children love TikTok but the company fails to keep them protected. We do not want our youngest ones to be exposed to pervasive hidden advertising and unknowingly turned into billboards when they are just trying to have fun.”
The group has asked for an in-depth investigation on TikTok’s practices, as well as urges the company to declare its business model to consumers so unfair policies won’t be imposed onto users, especially children and teenagers, “who form an important part of TikTok’s audience [and] must be adequately protected regarding their exposure to marketing, hidden advertising and inappropriate content.”
Neither TikTok nor its parent company, Bytedance, has addressed the backlash.
[via Gizmodo and BEUC, cover image via DANIEL CONSTANTE / Shutterstock.com]
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