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TikTok is compared to a “nightclub”.

“Everyone is thinking of supporting me, donation information is right below,” MJ, 14, said repeatedly on the livestream, which drew more than 2,000 participants.

MJ has a heavily made up face, blond hair and wears a tight black bralette. The little girl poses, purses her lips and asks everyone to keep supporting her tick tock Life. “$35 for your flash. Show me your thighs, I’ll back you up,” one rude comment appeared.

Girls are scrutinized very closely on TikTok live stream.  Photo: Forbes

Girls are often scrutinized on TikTok live streams. Picture: forbes

In another live stream, Ariana Grande has nearly 3,000 followers across the screen. The comments urged the girl to cut off every piece of fabric on the t-shirt she was wearing. “If I cut open my shirt I’ll give you 35,000 TikTok coins ($400),” one person commented. TikTok Coin is a currency that can be used to directly support live streamers or buy gifts. Although Grande didn’t say her age, the picture shows that the girl could be between 12 and 18 years old.

These exchanges did not take place in nightclubs. Instead, they appear daily on the TikTok live streaming site. As noted by forbes Based on hundreds of recent live streams, the platform seems to be turning into a real nightclub, but with an added element of underage people – people who are under 18 years old.

In it, many viewers regularly use comments to urge young girls to take sensitive actions to get bonuses like coins, vouchers, coupons, cash sent via Venmo, PayPal, bank account…. This account information was provided on the live streamer’s personal page or in the video description.

“It’s like walking the streets, going to a strip club and performing in front of people. The difference here is that the performer is underage and uses the media to attract clients,” commented Leah Plunkett, an associate professor at Harvard University and a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. “This is sexual exploitation. But that’s exactly what’s shown on TikTok.”

According to TikTok regulations, only people over the age of 13 can join the platform and people over the age of 18 can only activate the gift receiving feature during the live stream. Content containing sexual or pornographic elements will be blocked for children and minors. However, the control is not complete.

The US and many other countries are starting to go strong with youth-oriented apps like TikTok or Instagram. In March, US President Joe Biden called on social media platforms to be held accountable for their impact on children for profit.

The country also began targeting TikTok following a US investigation into how Facebook and Instagram could harm teenagers. Last October, the US asked a director of the platform to testify. But since then very little has changed.

Experts fear that sexually explicit activity on TikTok Live could create opportunities for potential predators. John Shehan, vice president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), said bad guys can get kids to do what they want. The ultimate goal is to blackmail sensitive photos and videos, get real dates to do other bad things.

Lina Nealon, Senior Legal Counsel at NCMEC, suggested that Venmo, PayPal, etc. accounts listed on a person’s TikTok profile could be a sign of human trafficking. “It suggests that the person or that person’s sexually explicit images or videos may be for sale,” Nealon said.

According to data analytics company SensorTower, TikTok users have spent more than $2 billion on the platform. They are mainly converted into TikTok Coin.

“TikTok isn’t the only social network that allows virtual payments or gifts. However, its size and growing user base set it apart,” commented David Thiel, Stanford Internet Observatory’s chief technology officer. “This makes streaming and monetization issues more serious.”

In its financial report for the fourth quarter of 2021, TikTok acknowledged that the platform still has a lot of child-related content. At the time, the company said it had removed more than 15 million accounts suspected of being under the age of 13, nearly 86 million videos of rule-breaking, nearly half of which involved children.

Madison, 17 years old from South Carolina, tells forbes that some of her younger friends can make an average of $200 a week on TikTok. Madison’s account isn’t enabled for giveaways during livestreams, but she’s received a number of rude offers from “older men trying to have sex with girls.” These people even took to Instagram to send messages with similar content. Madison said the only way to avoid trouble is to suspend those accounts and close the app.

According to experts, parents should exercise more control over their children, especially when it comes to live streaming on platforms like TikTok. In addition, it is necessary to provide advice and warn of potential dangers that may arise in the online environment.

Bao Lam (corresponding forbes)

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