Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he will do everything in his power to hold TikTok accountable after raising “serious concerns” about the safety of children on the social media platform.
It comes after a graphic and disturbing video of a man in the US committing suicide with a gun to the head was circulated on the video-sharing app after originating on Facebook.
Predators on TikTok were reported as concealing the horrific video after shorter videos of cute animals to trick people into watching it.
In a video message, Morrison said the Australia eSafety Commissioner was working with TikTok to ensure the video was removed.
“There is a serious concern and there is a serious side on what happens with social media, and we saw that with that disgraceful video that was uploaded onto TikTok,” Morrison said.
“Those who run these organisations have a responsibility to those who are watching it and particularly when it comes to children. That is why we’ve taken strong action through the eSafety Commission to make sure these sort of things don’t happen.”
“The rules in the real world, how you behave in the real world, have to be the same in the social media world. There’s not a special set of rules.”
TikTok has said its moderators are working to detect and remove the video as people are trying to upload it, and banning the accounts attempting to do so.
“We appreciate our community members who’ve reported content and warned others against watching, engaging or sharing such videos,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
“Our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our community guidelines.”
Morrison warned that more regulation might be coming for TikTok and other social media platforms operating in Australia.
“It’s a big job for governments to make sure that these social media companies do the right thing,” he said. “My message is, yes your products are changing the world but with that comes a great responsibility and you need to be accountable and responsible for making sure your product does not harm Australians, and my government will be making sure that we do everything to hold you accountable.”
“No child should be exposed to horrifying content like this. Platforms like TikTok need to put in more resources to detect and tear down this sort of harmful content. That is their responsibility.”
While Morrison singled out TikTok, the video in question was originally livestreamed on Facebook, and was also shared on Twitter.
TikTok has been at the centre of a political storm in recent months due to concerns over the amount of data held by the China-based company, and will be imminently banned in the United States unless it finds a buyer there.
Several companies have thrown their hat in the ring to acquire TikTok, including Microsoft and Oracle. If a deal is made, TikTok will likely also be bought in Australia, with data moved away from China.
Late last month, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer quit the company after just a handful of months in the position.
“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” Mayer said.
“Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”
Trump recently signed an executive order effectively banning TikTok in the US in 90 days unless it is sold, raising concerns with the “vast swathes of information” captured from users which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information”.
Several Australian politicians have also raised similar concerns about the use of TikTok in Australia and the potential for user data to be handed over to the Chinese government.
Always reach out if you need help. You can speak with: Lifeline (13 11 14, lifeline.org.au), beyondblue (1300 22 4636, beyondblue.org.au) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467, suicidecallbackservice.org.au).