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Kenya tells TikTok to show it is complying with privacy laws

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows TikTok app logo

By Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) -Kenya has demanded that TikTok show it is adhering to local privacy and user verification laws, the interior minister said on Thursday, saying the platform has been used to spread propaganda, carry out fraud and distribute sexual content.

TikTok and other social media companies are under pressure from regulators around the world to shield users from harmful content and criminals who take advantage of the sites.

"The government, through the office of the Data Protection Commissioner, has contacted TikTok and raised concerns relating to its processing activities," Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki told a parliamentary committee.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, did not respond immediately to a request for comment. In response to similar criticism in other countries, it has defended its record on user privacy.

Kindiki said the platform had been used by criminals "to spread malicious propaganda, steal popular accounts through identity theft and impersonation" and to "conduct fraud by duping Kenyans into fake forex trades and fake job recruitments".

"These risks have caused distress among users, exposed minors to inappropriate content and promoted discord among citizens," he said.

Odanga Madung, a researcher at the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, said the problems described by Kindiki were widespread across social media platforms.

"TikTok will get the attention but the problem will not stop there," Madung told Reuters. "The government of Kenya is right to demand some transparency in regard to how TikTok carries out moderation."

Last week, Italy's competition watchdog fined three units of TikTok 10 million euros ($10.91 million) in total for inadequate checks on content potentially harmful to young or vulnerable users.

The company also faces a ban in the United States unless its Chinese owners sell within about six months, under the terms of a draft bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

($1 = 0.9166 euros)

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Aaron Ross, Alexandra Hudson)