Snapchat removes a few children from its UK platform every month: Ofcom

Snapchat removes a few children from its UK platform every month: Ofcom

Snapchat removes a few children from its UK platform every month: Ofcom

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Snapchat kicks dozens of children in Britain off its platform every month, compared to tens of thousands blocked by rival TikTok, according to internal data the companies shared with UK media regulator Ofcom and Reuters has reported. views.


Social media platforms such as Meta’s Instagram, ByteDance’s TikTok and Snap’s Snapchat require users to be at least 13 years old. These restrictions are intended to protect the privacy and safety of young children.

Ahead of Britain’s Online Safety Bill, aimed at protecting social media users from harmful content such as child pornography, Ofcom asked TikTok and Snapchat how many suspects under the age of 13 they kicked out their platforms in one year.

According to data seen by Reuters, TikTok told Ofcom that between April 2021 and April 2022 it blocked an average of around 180,000 suspected underage accounts in Britain each month, or around 2 million over that period. of 12 months.

During the same period, Snapchat revealed that it deleted about 60 accounts per month, or just over 700 in total.

A Snap spokesperson told Reuters the figures misrepresent the extent of the work the company is doing to keep under-13s away from its platform. The spokesperson declined to provide additional context or detail the specific blocking actions the company has taken.

“We take these obligations seriously and every month in the UK we block and remove tens of thousands of attempts by underage users to create a Snapchat account,” the Snap spokesperson said.

Recent research from Ofcom suggests that both apps are equally popular with underage users. Children are also more likely to create their own private account on Snapchat, rather than using a parent’s, compared to TikTok.

“It doesn’t make sense that Snapchat is blocking a fraction of the number of kids that TikTok is,” said a source within Snapchat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Snapchat blocks users from signing up with a date of birth that puts them under the age of 13. Reuters could not determine what protocols are in place to remove underage users once they have entered the platform and the spokesperson did not specify.

Ofcom told Reuters that assessing the measures taken by video-sharing platforms to protect children online remained a priority area and that the regulator, which operates independently of the government, would deliver its findings later this year. year.

Currently, social media companies are responsible for setting age limits on their platforms. However, under the long-awaited Online Safety Bill, they will be required by law to respect these limits and demonstrate how they do so, for example through age verification technology.

Businesses that violate their terms of service face a fine of up to 10% of their annual revenue.

In 2022, Ofcom research found that 60% of children aged eight to 11 had at least one social media account, often created by providing a fake date of birth. The regulator also found Snapchat to be the most popular app for underage social media users.

Risks for young children

Social media poses serious risks to young children, say child safety advocates.

According to figures recently released by the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Young Children), Snapchat accounted for 43% of cases in which social media was used to disseminate indecent images of children.

Richard Collard, associate head of child online safety at the NSPCC, said it was “incredibly alarming” how few underage users Snapchat seemed to be suppressing.

Snapchat “needs to take much stronger measures to ensure that young children do not use the platform and older children are safe from harm,” he said.

Britain, like the European Union and other countries, has sought ways to protect social media users, especially children, from harmful content without undermining freedom of expression.

Enforcing age restrictions is expected to be a key part of its online safety bill, while ensuring companies remove content that is illegal or prohibited by their terms of service.

A TikTok spokesperson said its numbers speak to the strength of the company’s efforts to remove suspected underage users.

“TikTok is strictly a 13+ platform and we have processes in place to enforce our minimum age requirements, both at the time of registration and through the ongoing proactive removal of accounts deemed to be underage. of our platform,” they said.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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