TikTok Shop: warning for social media users as TikTok bans online store items and businesses over safety fears

TikToke also blocked millions of seller accounts as they did not meet the requirements
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TikTok has announced that it has blocked 37 million attempts to list products for its online store, as it released its most recent report on the security of its e-commerce platform.

According to the report, which covers July to December 2023, the social media giant also prevented two million seller accounts from being registered because they did not meet the site’s sign-up requirements.

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The TikTok Shop, which launched in 2021, has grown to accommodate a global network of 15 million sellers, six million of which joined the platform in the second half of 2023 alone.

It allows brands and influencers to link products mentioned in videos to a retail space in the app to purchase them. A number of rival social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, offer their own retail spaces.

In its latest safety report, TikTok also said it removed 133,000 individual products after they were listed on the site, and deactivated the accounts of more than one million sellers, and removed their products, because of policy violations.

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In addition, e-commerce features had been removed from more than 500,000 creators, because of rule breaches.

Jan Wilk, head of operations for TikTok Shop UK, said: “As we enable thousands of businesses to sell millions of products, the TikTok Shop Safety Report demonstrates our continued investment in creating safer and trustworthy shopping experiences for our community.”

The social media firm said it spent more than 400 million US dollars (£319 million) in 2023 investing in tools, technology and people to keep its marketplace safe for consumers and businesses.

The growth of TikTok Shop comes despite ongoing uncertainty for the app in the United States, after President Joe Biden signed a Bill into law that gives the platform’s parent company, ByteDance, nine months to sell TikTok’s US business or face a ban in the country.

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The move followed years of calls by some American politicians for TikTok to be banned over security concerns around ByteDance’s links to China. A number of governments around the world, including the UK, have already banned the app from government devices.

In November, TikTok said nearly 1.5 million UK firms are using the platform to promote their business, with many people using its online TikTok Shop to purchase goods and services from smaller businesses.

Releasing figures on UK business use of the platform for the first time, TikTok said research from Oxford Economics showed activity by small and medium-sized firms on the site contributed £1.63 billion to the economy last year and supported about 32,000 jobs.

Just a few months later, in February 2024, the Which? watchdog found that electric heaters that could explode, cause electric shocks or start house fires were being sold on TikTok and promoted by influencers with millions of social media followers.

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Three of the five heaters bought through TikTok for Which? tests were “dangerously unsafe”, and the instructions for a fourth were lacking key safety warnings.

Which? has called for online marketplaces to have more legal responsibility for unsafe and illegal products sold to consumers via their platforms.

It warned that new online marketplaces can achieve millions of app downloads, but currently pass responsibility for safety to sellers who are beyond the reach of UK regulations.

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