Foundation SOMI takes TikTok to court on behalf of minors with a claim for damages of € 1.4 billion
Badhoevedorp, 2nd June 2021 – The Foundation SOMI is suing TikTok today for violating privacy legislation through a mass claim on behalf of parents of children who have used TikTok. The claim amount can rise to more than € 1.4 billion. According to the foundation, TikTok is negligent when it comes to guaranteeing the safety and privacy of children on the platform. Internationally, this has already led to several deaths among minors. According to the foundation, it is, therefore, necessary to “intervene as quickly as possible”.
Children under 13: € 2,000, children aged 13, 14, and 15: € 1,000, and children aged 16 and 17 € 500. These are the amounts that the Foundation for Market Information Research (SOMI) demands as compensation for the participants in its mass claim against TikTok. Added up, the mass claim can amount to more than € 1.4 billion, based on the more than 1 million Dutch minor users. But more importantly, according to the foundation: “A court decision can directly restrict the practices of TikTok - and other social media platforms. We have sent letters of complaint to TikTok and several European supervisory authorities in the past year, but have not seen any substantive results. That is why we have decided not to wait for the investigations of the authorities and to take legal action ourselves,” says Cor Wijtvliet,
According to SOMI, TikTok violates European laws by profiling children for marketing purposes, not correctly requesting consent for the use of data, and not specifying which data is collected for which purposes. The company would also collect and store much more data than necessary. In addition, TikTok would not meet the data retention and security requirements imposed by the European GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation).
More importantly; the Chinese social media platform also does not sufficiently guarantee the safety of minors. All over the world, media reported accidents as a result of participating in challenges promoted by the platform. Sometimes even resulting in death: at the beginning of 2021, a ten-year-old Italian girl died after participating in the blackout challenge, in which participants deliberately choked themselves for as long as possible.
SOMI is expanding its charges against TikTok with the claim that the platform does not comply with the European Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS), which includes specific rules to protect children from harmful video content. In addition, the foundation considers it unlawful that TikTok fails to keep illegal content of the platform sufficiently out of the view of young people. SOMI also believes that more general videos on TikTok can be harmful to young children, for example (lots of) hidden advertisements for harmful products and content that promotes unrealistic ideals of beauty, which can lead to problems such as self-harm and eating disorders.
The first step in the legal process has been taken today. The lawyers of SOMI, privacy experts of law firm SOLV led by Douwe Linders, have sent an official summons to TikTok Technology Limited. The summons follows an earlier request this month to consult with TikTok. In response, the Chinese tech giant stated that it believes that there are no violations of any law whatsoever and that SOMI's objections have no factual basis.
Douwe Linders, partner at SOLV: “The risks of using TikTok by children should not be underestimated and the good intentions of TikTok should not be overestimated. It often seems fun and innocent, but TikTok is just another profiling and advertising machine. SOMI has a strong case and we will fight for the interests of its supporters. But a tech giant like TikTok will not give in easily. We have to be patient and work carefully.”
In addition to the subpoena, the claim is entered in the collective claims register with the court, so that it is recognized as such under the 'Collective Action Settlement Act' (WAMCA).
The claim against TikTok is based on all Dutch minor users of the platform. SOMI has been building the case for some time and now has more than 64,000 European participants that they directly represent: “In order to provide the correct evidence, we must be able to substantiate that TikTok is infringing the legislation. We can only do that if we have examples of this. We, therefore, ask on behalf of our users how TikTok has stored personal data and with whom they share the data. According to the GDPR, they are obliged to share this information. With this evidence, we can conduct a case before the Dutch court on behalf of all possible Dutch victims," says Wijtvliet. If successful, the compensation will be distributed via a claims handler with anyone who can prove that they have used TikTok. First of all with the members.
Concerned parents whose children are using or have used TikTok from May 25th, 2018 to date, can still participate in the claim against TikTok by signing up on the website https://tiktokclaim.org/ or via the SOMI app, available for download on the App Store and Google Play.