TikTok’s parent company seeks to get American kids hooked on an unsafe version of the video-based platform while offering a healthier option inside China, according to anti-social media activist Tristan Harris.
Mr. Harris told CBS the China-founded ByteDance offers Chinese users a platform called “Douyin” that offers content that does not match the experience on TikTok for the rest of the world.
Mr. Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, said the Chinese version of the social media site shows videos touting science, museums, education, and patriotism while limiting viewing to 40 minutes per day for young users.
“Now they don’t ship that version of TikTok to the rest of the world,” Mr. Harris told the news magazine show “60 Minutes.” “So it’s almost like they recognize that technology is influencing kids’ development, and they make their domestic version a spinach version of TikTok, while they ship the opium version to the rest of the world.”
Mr. Harris, a former Google employee, is among a group of activists who want to see new regulations placed on tech platforms.
His Center for Humane Technology nonprofit lists partners such as philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the Omidyar Network, led by billionaire eBay founder and tech critic Pierre Omidyar. The center has financed a nonprofit representing former Facebook and Twitter employees that have publicly criticized their former employers.
TikTok’s impact on children has captured the attention of Congress. In October 2021, the Senate Commerce Committee’s consumer protection panel held a hearing about “protecting kids online” featuring lawmakers grilling a TikTok executive.
Details of TikTok’s data-collection efforts targeting users have surfaced since the October 2021 hearing. Audio leaked from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings showed engineers in China had access to U.S. user data between September 2021 and January 2022, according to recordings accessed by BuzzFeed.
TikTok did not provide a comment on Wednesday. TikTok said earlier this year it was working to address location and data accessibility issues through a new partnership with America-based tech company Oracle.
TikTok told CBS it gives users the ability to limit their screen time.
Last year, Beijing banned Chinese children from playing online games Monday through Thursday and only allowed them to play for three hours each week, according to China’s National Press and Publication Administration.