Technology

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Kids on TikTok find the sunny app has a dark side

Media|: TikTok is known primarily as a launchpad for funny memes, dance routines and lip-synching videos. The company embraces that reputation with a tagline, "the last sunny corner on the internet." But there's a dark side to TikTok that engulfs some of the app's youngest users. Beneath the surface, TikTok also hosts videos promoting anorexia, bullying, suicide and sexual exploitation of minors. Highly personalised recommendations, driven by algorithms owned by the parent company ByteDance Ltd., often make it harder for parents to track what their children are seeing and for regulators to monitor what kids are being exposed to on the app. "Parents think that TikTok has some redeeming values," David Gomez, a school resource officer in Idaho, said on the fourth episode of Foundering: The TikTok Story. "Videos, lip syncing, singing, dancing around. OK. I see that stuff. But parents are just not understanding how many predators are on TikTok." A spokesperson for TikTok said the company is "deeply committed" to the safety of minors and that it continues to strengthen safeguards. In January, TikTok stopped allowing strangers to comment on videos posted by users under 16 years old. And it restricted the ability to download their videos and changed the default settings on kids' accounts from public to private. But the problems began years before TikTok even existed. Kids flocked to Musical.ly, the precursor to TikTok. Back then, one advertising executive called it "the world's youngest social network" because its audience included elementary school students. Safety advocates said TikTok for years prized expansion over the protection of minors. "Their company exploded in growth across the world, and they just didn't prioritize child safety as they were growing," said Dawn Hawkins, who runs an advocacy group called the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Hawkins said she spent months helping an 8-year-old relative get inappropriate videos of him in his underwear taken down from TikTok. Hawkins acknowledged that TikTok recently made a number of sought-after improvements but said it's still not a safe place for very young children to roam unmonitored.

GulfNews Technology

Twitter rolls out new prompts to curb bullying on its platform

Media|World|: New Delhi: Twitter has rolled out improved prompts on iOS and Android that will encourage users to pause and reconsider a potentially harmful or offensive reply - such as insults, strong language, or hateful remarks - before tweeting it. In other words, the upgraded feature is better at spotting "strong language" and now takes into account your relationship with the person you're messaging. "For example, if two accounts follow and reply to each other often, there's a higher likelihood that they have a better understanding of preferred tone of communication," Anita Butler and Alberto Parrella from Twitter said in a joint statement on Wednesday. In 2020, Twitter first tested prompts that encouraged people to pause and reconsider a potentially harmful or offensive reply before they hit send. "Starting today, we're rolling these improved prompts out across iOS and Android, starting with accounts that have enabled English-language settings," the company informed. Early tests revealed that if prompted, 34 per cent of people revised their initial reply or decided to not send their reply at all. "After being prompted once, people composed, on average, 11 per cent fewer offensive replies in the future," Twitter said. If prompted, people were less likely to receive offensive and harmful replies back. Since the early tests, here's what we've incorporated into the systems that decide when and how to send these reminders: Twitter said it will continue to explore how prompts - such as reply prompts and article prompts - and other forms of intervention can encourage healthier conversations on Twitter.