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Snapchat has removed next to no underage child accounts in the UK, report finds

 (PA) (PA Wire)
(PA) (PA Wire)

Snapchat has barely removed any underage children from its platform in the UK, a report shared with media regulator Ofcom has found, raising concerns about its safeguarding efforts for younger users.

Just 700 suspected underage accounts were removed from Snapchat by owner Snap Inc in the UK between April 2021 and April 2022, according to data filed with Ofcom seen by the Reuters news agency. That represents just 0.4% of the some 180,000 accounts removed by TikTok over the same period.

An anonymous Snap insider told Reuters: "It makes no sense that Snapchat is blocking a fraction of the number of children that TikTok is."

At present major social media apps including Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok require users to be above the age of 13 in order to protect younger children from harmful material. Snapchat automatically blocks users who seek to create an account using a date of birth which indicates they are under 13. But according to Ofcom, nearly two-thirds of children under the age of 13 have at least one social media account, suggesting that many use a fake date of birth to bypass age restrictions.

Richard Collard, associate head of child safety at charity NSPCC, said Snapchat’s comparatively low levels of enforcement action of underage accounts were “incredibly alarming,” adding that the firm "must take much stronger action to ensure that young children are not using the platform, and older children are being kept safe from harm."

A Snap spokesperson said the figures were from a leaked document and misrepresented the scale of work the company did to keep under-13s off its platform.

"We take these obligations seriously and every month in the UK we block and delete tens of thousands of attempts from underage users to create a Snapchat account," the spokesperson said.