This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Tik Tok has danced its way into the news recently, thanks to President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban it stateside. The video-making app giant, especially popular with teenagers, is owned by a Chinese technology company. While the company tries to distance itself from its government, it ultimately falls under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Communist Party.
The app poses a significant threat to national security – so much that the federal government and all military branches have banned its use on devices they own. The government began an extensive investigation of the app last fall.
Human Trafficking Via Tik Tok
But the app has another disturbing and pervasive problem: it’s a hotbed for child sexual exploitation and trafficking. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has Tik Tok on its Dirty Dozen List of companies that “profit from or facilitate sexual exploitation.”
Lina Nealon, Director of Corporate and Strategic Initiatives for the organization, explained in an interview with EWTN, “Where there are children, there are predators.” She says corporations do not prioritize children’s safety, with the ones on the Dirty Dozen being some of the worst offenders.
Tik Tok made news in early 2019 for paying nearly $6 million in settlements after illegally collecting information about children under 13 – including their names and locations. The company has made some improvements to in-app security, but it still leaves kids vulnerable to predators.
Predators on Tik Tok
On Tik Tok, children have received direct messages from strangers who send porn and explicit photos, but an even greater danger can lurk. Predators – sometimes posing as teenagers themselves – build relationships and trust with Tik Tok users and are eventually able to lure them in to human trafficking.
Of course, it’s up to parents to monitor what their children do online and what apps they use. But children are more vulnerable when they have difficult relationships with their parents, are in foster care, or have a history of abuse. Even teens in loving families can be drawn in by the appeal of someone giving them attention or offering gifts.
In any case, authorities should actively work to combat any form of exploitation of children. The ban on Tik Tok will ultimately protect millions of American children.