TikTok must introduce age verification for all users across the EU – MEP Maria Walsh

In a meeting with senior TikTok executives, Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh called on the platform to introduce mandatory age verification for all users across the EU as a matter of urgency. 

Having requested a meeting with TikTok’s international Global Trust and Safety division following recent RTÉ revelations, MEP Walsh met with TikTok in Dublin this week to discuss regulation of the platform, protections for young and vulnerable users, and the spread of misinformation during elections. 

Maria Walsh, MEP for Midlands-North West, said: 

“Speaking with TikTok executives this week in Dublin, my main message was the urgent need to introduce age verification for all TikTok users, to ensure the minimum age requirement is properly implemented and content is age-specific and appropriate. 

“In response, TikTok said they would welcome increased regulation around age verification but would require a pan-European approach. The platform also confirmed that 49,000 accounts were removed during the second half of last year because they were cited as being underage, a proactive move by TikTok. 

“We must see the introduction of age verification regulations on a national and EU level, a priority which I will commit myself to if re-elected to the European Parliament. However, in the meantime, there is nothing stopping social media companies from putting verification processes in place themselves for all users across the EU.”

“I was delighted to be joined by my colleague Senator Regina Doherty and while our meeting with TikTok was productive and largely positive, it is clear that there is a long way to go until we see our young people properly protected on social media platforms.

“I raised my concerns surrounding the findings of the recent RTÉ investigation into the ease of access minors on TikTok have to graphic and harmful content which perpetuates a crisis of mental health in our young people. 

“TikTok informed me that they are reviewing the density and diversity of content shared to minors. They accepted they should have protections in place if vulnerable people use the app to seek out self-harm or excessively negative or harmful content, and I welcome the news that there are new models being developed to tackle this issue. 

“TikTok also confirmed that they are actively looking at research on how much content should be made visible that is negative in nature.”

Speaking about the use of TikTok during elections, MEP Walsh said:

“I also raised my concerns around the impact of misinformation on the platform during election campaigns. I’m happy to report that TikTok will have an Election Centre with a 24/7 staffing presence up and running from next Tuesday. 

“It is also on us as politicians to engage with users and provide them with factual information, particularly given that 50% of TikTok users in Ireland say they want and expect to see content from their government agencies and politicians on the platform.”