TikTok agrees to block users in Italy who say they are under 13 after girl dies

FILE PHOTO: Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) - The popular video app TikTok said on Wednesday it had agreed with Italian authorities to block all users who gave their age as under 13, among other measures, after the death of a 10-year-old girl was blamed on a breath-holding social media challenge.

Prosecutors in Palermo are investigating that case, which has led to increased scrutiny of children’s use of social media platforms.

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, first gained popularity in Asia and now also has a big following in the West. It has become hugely popular among teenagers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Italian regulator said TikTok had agreed to block all accounts in Italy from Feb. 9, and to readmit only users who provided a date of birth showing they were at least 13 years old.

Alexandra Evans, Tiktok’s head of child safety in Europe, said it would also introduce a button into the app to enable members to report users who appeared to be under 13.

The regulator said TikTok had also agreed to evaluate using artificial intelligence to detect under-age accounts.

It will, however, have to discuss the proposal with the Irish privacy authority, which is the European Union’s lead data protection authority for Tik Tok because the firm has its European head office in Ireland.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina, editing by Valentina Za and Kevin Liffey